ate us like a kiln. We’d enter the furnace and come out slightly different.
If we were feeling soft, or restless, we’d head towards the fire. Our legs
took us deep into the coals, ashes and pine pressed tighter underfoot.
Constant forest fire of our childhoods. Not sure whose bright idea it was
to put an oven amidst all this brush. As kids we couldn’t feel the heat, just
kept walking into the belly. We could relate to the hunger. We wanted to see
if the stories were true, if the flames would make us malleable. If we could
change this life of ours. I always wanted to stop and examine the birds
scorched and asleep on the ground. My friends would yell put it back
and I’d run to catch up. Hear the dull thud behind me. Dull burn in my legs
less than the rest of it all. We walked forever. Through meal times into dawn.
We couldn’t see the sun rising. It was all orange anyways. We talked to each
other and the trees. The forest learned more than it needed to know, devoured
the details we had trouble digesting. We got nothing out of these treks but
soot on our clothes. I feel—dare I say it—a burning need to run back, whisper
in its ear everything it’s missed, hear the sigh of ancient trunks shifting under
the weight of it. Feel the crackling begin. Let my muscles start to twitch.

Rachel Nolan holds a BA from Hampshire College and is currently a freelance poetry editor living in Boston, Massachusetts. Rachel’s work has recently appeared in Olney Magazine, Impossible Task, and Justed Milieu, among others, and was a finalist for Heavy Feather Review’s Zachary Doss Friends in Letters Memorial Fellowship in 2020. Their chapbook SHOVE THE LIGHT BACK IN is forthcoming from Another New Calligraphy in 2022. Follow them on Twitter @bigpoetrynerd or send them an email at

photo by Matt Howard (via unsplash)