The Belt

by Alison Stine

I never loved him enough to steal.
For Kelly’s second bonfire I bring paper,

every mouth a letter. We did this
a year ago. Back then I tried to burn a belt

in her junk pile prickly with chairs.
It was a belt another girl stole,

carved a name into it using scissors.
And it didn’t burn well, the leather

recoiling only on the ends as if edged
in black lace. It is still there as far

as I know, in the kingdom of crows.
The knife has not stuck to anything

since. When I was asked if I had
seen it, I lied. I lied about a lot

of things. Other things I tried
to burn: a t-shirt. Blue letters smoked

in the sink. The mockingbird stuttered.
He never told me much. I guess it was

my fault. I was so focused on seeing
a cub; a coyote; the half-albino deer, part tan,

part white like an acid splash: small miracles
that made our lives in the woods worth it.

Many times when we fought I had nowhere
to go and would sit outside on the pitted

deck step, unsteady as a city, in time to see
a star give up. The man always missed them.

Maybe light tries harder for men. Maybe
he needed to be, as I was, clad only in consent;

my open body, an offering I was always offering
up to the woodstove, to the coyotes, to

the rope, to love. Many times I pictured how
I would run, sunk in the stars of dead

cows. I practiced barefoot. The pasture knew
my skin. In the loft I listened for the law.

They were coming, they were coming,
it was only a matter of when. I would grab

my phone. From the field, I would call Billy.
You can find the highway from the woods, right?

I lied. I have a lot to burn.