Lawren Harris. Ice House.
A father’s rant. 1996. For Brendan.
When you need to know
how to stay alive one more day
find some sand, an old oil drum
a gallon of kerosene.
A gallon costs a buck.
If you can’t scrounge a dollar a day
there’s no hope.
Fill the drum half full of sand.
Pour the kerosene slowly
till it soaks to the bottom.
Save a little to light a rag.
It’ll burn a low blue flame
24 hours, maybe more.
There’ are old barrels everywhere
but don’t use them if they smell
like toxic shit – you know
toluene, methylene chloride.
You’re not huffing this stuff,
you’re trying to maintain
some animal heat.
If you’re not scared of cancer
or your kids turning into mutants
or something, why worry
about one more day?
You can get sand lots of places
besides a beach.
Mine tailings, stamp sand, railroad cinder,
Hell, diamond dust works if you’ve got it.
The finer the ballast, the slower the burn.
Use what you’ve got
but don’t fool with the fuel.
Diesel works but the smoke
gives you away.
Try jet fuel or gasoline
and you’re fucked in a flash —
and maybe that’s what you want.
But when you need to see tomorrow
when the sun’s just an angry lip kissing
the night’s ass and a cloud of breath’s
the only thing between you and the stars
when the northern lights spook you
and coyotes howl on empty bellies
because they won’t make it, either
when you forget the name of the last
woman you slept with, how her hair
smelled like wood smoke
her skin a soft steady flame
when you need to know