When I was 4 years old they put me in the hospital
to remove my tonsils and adenoids.
The night after they operated
I could not sleep so I got up

and I wandered down the huge corridor,
nobody in sight, and I came to 2 big doors
so I went through them and that is when
I first heard the sound of real pain;

I had wandered into the children’s burn unit
and everywhere like a black tornado cloud
rolling above the tree line
there were the dark sobs and moans,

a terrifying noise in the bones and cells,
the emanations of illiterate flesh.
Next to where I stood dumbstruck
was a boy whose arms were bandaged but

otherwise he was okay. You
shouldn’t be here, he whispered, so
I moved over next to him, our eyes
reaching for one another in the dark.

What happened to you? I asked him,
trying not to cry.
Don’t play with matches, he said,
it hurts real bad and

they leave you here alone in the dark.
If you want the truth ask a child,
but I was little: when he said “they”
I thought he meant the matches.