fire on water

The side of a building with many fire escapes. The photo appears in black and white with a V-shaped center section in bright, comic-book style color, the building vibrant orange-red.

first it appeared like an oil of rainbow, 
shimmering under the sunlight, dancing 

with the ripples & stretching toward the 
shore to baptize little multicolored stones. 

i have seen fire run like an athlete on water. 
i have seen it lick a river like a child

does a bowl of his favorite broth. in the place 
i come from, i have seen fire dance on the skins of 

men who received an impromptu visitation 
of misfortune. they say: something must ignite a fire.

what if the nascence of burning is within, would you 
call it self-forging, like the malleability of red steel?

i have heard stories of how a memory can incinerate
the soul & make the body: a warehouse of ash. perhaps,

all of us have mastered the art of our burnings;
we’ve learned to feed this flame with water to quiet

our consummations. i know from my childhood, between 
my first tooth and first walk, i have accessorized my lungs 

with enough gasoline to fuel my continuity. like 
holding water in your hands, i submit to the fluidity of time.


Joshua Effiong

Joshua Effiong, Frontier VI, is a writer and digital artist from the Örö people of Nigeria. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kalahari Review, Rough Cut Press, Madrigal Press, Titled House, The Indianapolis Review, Chestnut Review, among other places. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, Autopsy of Things Left Unnamed (2020). Find him on Instagram @josh.effiong and twitter @JoshEffiong

Header photograph and artwork by Jordan Keller-Wilson

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