Cassandra Jobman - Lakeview


Mama tells me to stay away from matches,
She says "Baby, You don't want to start a fire."
I wonder if she can smell the smoke yet.
Because I have been lighting fires ever since Dad left.
I remember my mother
Beat by words and threats
Although never a fist.
just a victim of my father's razor blade manipulations,
it didn't take me long to realize
I could not protect her.
And when I would get angry
She would crawl into my twin bed
Pretending it was Superman’s fortress
and whisper that it was harmless.

          Just words.
          Just ultimatums.
          Just his love language.

at school I learned it bore the name domestic violence.
The lead cause of injury to women ages 15-44.
More incidents than
          car accidents
          And muggings
But she still calls herself lucky.
Says we shouldn't talk about it.
   Don't play with matches.
       Don't start a riot.
          Just keep silent.
But one in four women challenge me otherwise.
My chapped lips part to break the generational curse of silence
And zip ties strangling weak wrists snap
To strike a match
For my mentor Sandra
Whose ex husband was so paranoid and bent on abuse
That when she called a friend about an aquarium to put in her classroom
He thought she was talking in code
And beat her until she was would "submit to her master"
Did I mention that he was a pastor?
He called it biblical.
Each match I strike-
A blinding spotlight on the domestic violence that destroyed our households long before I ever put them near a flame.
strike a match and see
Every repetitive question sizzle to ash.
Every "Why didn't you just leave?" And "Why didn't you just call the police?"
And "what did you do to make them angry?"
I am armed with gasoline and lighter in one palm and a pencil in the other,
To carry out the justice of an arsenic.
I watch flames devour myths and pain and hurts and fear

Because women before me have been lighting fires for centuries.
Breathe in the aftermath of our destruction:

          strike a match to every excuse for domestic violence,
          Every silent cry from the women too afraid to leave.

          strike a match for my father who refuses to acknowledge and confess
          And for my mother who lets him.
          For the women who stand by the side of men
                    Even when they shouldn't.

Like my mama and
How she always tells me to stay away from matches.
She says "Baby, You don't want to start a fire."
But mama,

We are going to keep lighting fires
          we run out of things to burn.


Jason Carney