My Own Fires by Lauren Hunter


My Own Fires by Lauren Hunter


Poetry Books, 2011

What little we know of Harriet Van Os has been pieced together in Lauren Hunter’s brave, heart-wrenching prose and poetry collection, My Own Fires. Born in a Hialeah, Florida in 1921, Van Os was the eldest of 18 children, just minutes older than her twin brother, Constantine. After losing her entire family in a fire, which burned their country estate to the ground, Van Os moved to New York City, where she joined The Poetry Brothel and became a poet of some distinction, famous particularly for the spare, haunted verse that appeared each morning scrawled upon her bed sheets. Harriett Van Os has long been a literary mystery, but thanks to Lauren Hunter’s painstaking research into her history, we have been given the good fortune to handle her remaining poems, tactile and sincere, each like a trembling flame.

“At once haunted and haunting, Lauren Hunter’s multi-vocal and achingly audacious mixture of poetry and prose effectively engages issues of imagination and documentation, memory and displacement, and the crucial, complex ways in which memory itself is like fire.” — Laurie Sheck
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To Theo (after the fight)

How you came quietly.
How I came along,
unwittingly tripped
onto the knife. Yes,
I cried. But I cry
all the time. You will
forgive me? How I am
not brave, how I am
all consequence, all
cocked triggers.
I don’t expect you to
be gentle. Don’t expect
me to be kind.