An excerpt from

Fire Never Sleeps
by Carla Hartsfield


For close to a year she’s watched
a hairline crack in her kitchen tile;
the woman expects offshoots,
leading to more imperfections.

Like splinters in layers of paint
fallen from the old cupboard drawers,
where her grandmother’s broken sugar bowl
is stored, one knife-blade crack
marring its antique surface.

Upstairs in the bathroom
she inspects her skin,
the mirror’s edges cracked
where her son bangs
his drinking glass. Stricken,

she peers at her broken image.
the woman sees faint lines beginning,
her days chopped into pieces,
fractures in her thought
confirming a shortening life.

She wants to stop the cracks,
hearing wind smash the door.
She studies faults in the breakage
like a surgeon before closure.


Broken Promises, divorce,
more cracks widening, deepening –
how many men’s hearts
has she buried,
hoping for death,
though they grow back
in the dream where
she shops for produce
with her father.

Cucumbers and lettuce
disappear from her basket,
her father lost in the store.
She catches him, finally,
near tomatoes, big
as watermelons,
and before she can stop him
he starts to slice.


The woman is incapable
of falling in love,
is increasingly more excited
by trees draped with snow,
their spiked limbs
and tortured shapes
shattering her windows.

She only worries once
the ice starts to drop,
its sound like china
crashing to the floor.
And the trees sharp fingers
darting carelessly like knives,
tempting her to reach for them.