Slow steady burn


Slow, steady flame

warm golden glow

softening honey-scented beeswax.





Attaching carved metal votive holder

to the wood

of the altar.

Claiming the territory,

staking the past configuration

to the next.

Perhaps awaiting



Is that what’s coming? Conflagration? Certainly in the dry forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Then there’s the one-third of Pakistan that’s underwater.

How can I justify this slow, steady burn?

This gentle trickle of words onto the page?

This thoughtful arranging, and



I read in yesterday’s paper that André Brown was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for the reckless homicide of eleven-year-old Anisa Scott, and for the attempted murder of her mother’s boyfriend two years ago. The theft of my bicycle earlier that year – when he was still only fifteen — is not even worthy of a footnote, of course, just a part of his “prior juvenile record.”

Don’s comment: I’m glad you weren’t hurt when you chased after him.

André is eighteen now. The article in the paper said his teacher said he’s been a pleasure to work with, that he finished his high school degree while awaiting sentencing. That was my impression of him when I attended the hearings after the bike theft, before the killing: That he was, when sober at least, a sweet young man. I tried to initiate restorative justice. Didn’t want him incarcerated. Regretted having called 911. Wrote about it. Spent weeks working on the piece, getting feedback, rewriting, planning to submit it for publication to a wider audience.

And then, the killing.

I felt a brief breath of relief, yesterday, to read that he will be locked away where, maybe, I could write to him and feel safe doing so. Then I tried to imagine what his life will be like. Thirty-five years. Does anyone deserve that? In thirty-five years he’ll be almost as old as I am now. If he lives that long. Though I imagine he’s more likely to live that long in prison than on the streets.

I feel sad. Helpless. Guilty. Of having access to slow, steady burning.

I feel scared. Of how badly we have fucked up our planet.

What was miraculously steady,

for the millennia it took us to evolve,

is returning to


5 thoughts on “Slow steady burn”

  1. Oh Becca, I did not know your heartfelt connection to this tragedy. I believe that with all the pain and suffering in our world we do all need time for the support and light of the “slow steady burn”s in our lives to have the strength to witness and when we can to act. Much care

  2. Wonderful. This is so provocative, and oddly, stopped my thought stream for several beats so I could take it in.
    Just wow!

  3. Celeste L. Robins

    Becca, I really feel the pain of this piece….alluding to so much on so many layers of inter-connectedness. It is all connected. We are all connected. Like unraveling a snarl of yarn, it can only be done one place at a time, steadily, with commitment. Unlike a snarl of yarn, it needs to happen collectively by all of us one snarl at a time. Why would we want to knit a sweater with holes and knots anymore than creating a society of snarls?

  4. Oooh, I love Celeste’s comment! 🙂 I will just say that I too hear the heartbreak, the guilt, and the GRIEF. Longing for a slow steady perspective maybe, one that can hold the past events and the present grief and the future (possible conflagrations?) with both equanimity and loving action. I hear love behind all the feelings you expressed here. The bittersweetness of love. How painful it is when so much that is happening does not seem aligned with it — neither coming from love nor taking us closer to it. Thank you for being a witness. Thank you for wanting restorative justice, for caring about the impact of a crazy “justice” (not) system. Thank you for writing. It matters. Touching hearts matters.

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