Burn This Beauty, by Lee Chilcote
Burn This Beauty
On a warm March night, I take my kids to the playground. Emily doesn’t want to go at first, complaining that she’d rather stay inside and play on her Kindle, but it’s all I can do to make Jonathan and Nathan put on their boots and jackets before they run out the door. Once we get outside, the moist air pulls at us. We leave our small yard, hemmed in by a rusty chain link fence. The streetlights are coming on.
As Emily and Nathan ride their bikes up the street towards the schoolyard, I feel my neck tense up. There’s a lot of traffic a block away on Detroit Avenue, and ambulances scream by late at night. I remember coming here a few years ago and finding junkies shooting up in the plastic playground tunnel. I made my kids leave immediately, ignoring their pleading cries. Recently, the school fenced the lot, fixed up the playground and added a toddler area, and it’s gotten safer.
Tonight, a full moon hangs in the sky. The patches of ice on the spongy playground surface spider web and snap as we walk. I play “monster” with the kids, running after them as they squeal. As it gets darker, Nathan does a strip tease, first unzipping his jacket, then taking his arms out, and finally throwing it on top of the slide, where it stays. This winter, we’ve had many 50-degree days like this, and even when I tell them not to take their coats off, it’s hard to stop them.
It’s completely dark now, but the kids don’t want to leave. They jump on the snow piles left by the plow. Jonathan falls in a crater and I rescue him. Later, seeing Thomas Cole’s “View of Shroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm,” I notice the two Native American men hunting in the foreground, their red headdresses blending in with the autumn New World landscape. The one standing in front holds a musket, the snout poking up through the understory of the forest, and I feel my neck tense up again, at the dangers of a warming planet.
Lee Chilcote: "My poetry has been published in Great Lakes Review, Oyez Review, Steam Ticket, PacificREVIEW, Kaws Mouth and other publications. My essays have been published in Out of Line, Muse, Riverwind, Whiskey Island, Belt and the books Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology, The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, A 2016 Race Anthology and Cleveland in Prose and Poetry. I have also written for Vanity Fair, Next City, Planning, Agence France Press, Belt and other publications. My chapbook, The Shape of Home, was a finalist for two poetry competitions and was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. I completed an M.A. in English and Creative Nonfiction Writing from Cleveland State University in 2002, where I was awarded the Leonard Trawick Creative Writing Prize for nonfiction writing. I'm cofounder and director of the nonprofit organization Literary Cleveland, whose mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio."
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