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Black Smoke

by Knute Skinner

‘Thank God we’re both alive,’ he said,
leaning his heavy frame on the garden wall
and punctuating each word
with gasps of air.
I raised up my head
from where I was lying face down
inhaling the scent of fresh earth.
‘Thank God we’re both alive,’ he repeated,
still leaning into the wall.

Behind him black smoke escaped
from a blown-out window
through which I could see licks of flame.
From somewhere in a white distance
came shouts of excited men.

Then he lifted me to my feet,
moving his burly body over mine
and hoisting me up with his large hands.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said,
referring to my fixed gaze at the house
where the gable was now on fire.

He held my limp body hard against his
and buried my face in the folds
of his charred and smoke-smelly jacket.
I could well imagine the sweat beneath
working its way down his hairy, protruding belly.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said again. ‘It doesn’t


Taken from ‘Viewpoints’ (1995), page 32.

Knute Skinner

Sinead Spellissy