Around the Fire by Courtney O’Banion Smith

Courtney O’Banion Smith writes, edits, and raises her sons in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications including The Ekphrastic Review and Relief. Find her on Twitter @cobanionsmith. You can also find Courtney here.

What was it like? Well, we believed

our little corner was everything

and like everywhere else

and always would be.

Parties every week complete

with inflatable water slides and broken,

plastic parting gifts.

Stretchy pants so we could super-size

patties made of a thousand animals each.

A square of yellow for a little extra,

and we always paid

for a little extra.

We had so much, we thought

we were starving if we didn't get

what we felt like right away.

Even our pets on diets.

Back then, two gas stations for every house.

Cars because of sprawl. Sprawl because of cars.

Fake tans because the sun

had already begun

to kill us. And the storms.

Too much rain over too much concrete,

tides rose to meet floodwaters. Man versus

God with all the gadgets with all the news

all the time about celebrities we

wanted to be, politicians we blamed,

and friends we couldn’t make.

I remember this one time, my mother's eyes

brimming, looking at one of her screens, soft

rustle of her neon acrylic nails

digging into the skirt of her cotton dress

patterned with huge, hot pink hibiscus

gone now forever.

This time, she answered when I asked why

she cried. The very last male white rhino

in the entire world just died, she sighed,

like she was reading the last line at bedtime

from an ancient, beloved book.

She might as well have said

a unicorn.

She wiped her nose with a tissue, gripped her gold cross.

Now, don’t litter, baby. Go throw your wrapper

in the trash.
Still so many species then.

We were convinced

we still looked good,

at least from the shoulders up.

I shouldn't blame her. What could she have done

really? The world had already been

lit on fire.