When I was three I lit a newspaper
through the grate in the gas heater.
I threw it close to the bin, next to the sofa.
Near my new-born brother.
I remember smoke a toddler deep,
mum’s screams lifted us up
and the sofa apologised.
It continued when I was 5
with a patch work arrangement
on the carpet. An obsessed child
can sprint surprisingly quickly,
moving from each heated exchange,
singeing existence with each pile.
At 7, there appeared to be a problem.
A back garden heap of black bags,
cackle and send smoke
signals to neighbours –
that shouldn’t be ignored.
8 years old is an odd age.
It’s when you become aware
of those around you –
and their desire to hurt you.
A hedge is a suitable victim
for ritualistic retaliation.
Sometimes a stare is enough.
9 is when they label you.
It’s when you visit
the people who can help.
A doctor with a lollipop.
It is possible to shake off a name.
You just need to remember
that a bad reputation spreads
Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry, and Strange Poetry. His poetry has been published in numerous magazines and websites, including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, The Lake, Clear Poetry, Picaroon Poetry, The Fat Damsel. You can find out more here or @stephendaniels