This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Molly Brodak.


The fire itself has no scent.
A little fire in the street
is no particular person’s baby. The walk home
now is always amid crashes
and incidents. The rain is intermittent.

It is not the fire itself you smell in your wool coat.
The fire itself is no body,
no site for war.

The gall, the dread,
I can’t see it in the street,
in the waiting lines,
in the stairwell
of my complex.

Only the rat’s head is left in the trap.
Each lamp spreads a skirt of light,
none touch.

Some have no lamp.

A pest, a homeless shred
of cells and bones begs and moves
his candle to the darkest sleepers,


so low, almost not, but singing,

and up here I cannot blink the fire out of my eyes,
I mean not the glittering fire itself,
not the fire but its burned things, and I can’t hear
his song but I see his candle moving through the dark.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).