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The Ballad of a Burning Family Tree

CAS for Database

Lori Khadse

South Brunswick, NJ

South Brunswick High School


Every arsonist sleeps with her

father’s wine-stained kisses

tucked underneath her pillow,

dreams of fire as a foil

to his wide, watered-down eyes, which are

always wanting in passion

but needing in vivacity.

The arsonist wonders how hard

her father’s liquor has to be

to draw blood;

the intoxicating Red has never looked so friendly

yet so menacing, reaped

from the same vice.

Her father,

a broken,

crooked man,

constantly guzzles down shards of glass

because he’s afraid of what he might say

the moment his ripped throat stops


His 2 AM thoughts consist of

worries that his little arsonist

may be flammable,

though she’s been

drowning in a year’s worth of tears

and suffocating though yesterday’s ashes.

Within her 2 AM thoughts,

she has renamed Juliet’s woes:

timeless curiosities,

useless frivolities.

She wonders:

if she holds a drunkard’s chest to her ear,

will she hear a heartbeat or a timebomb,

the echo of a memory or

the suppressed voices

of an abandoned mortality?

On his cheek, are those

scars or tear streaks?

She knows that, if anything,

her father is the


of a fake wedding ring,

a watch wrapped around her


that’s no longer ticking,

but that doesn’t stop her

from wearing it all the same.


Khadse’s vivid, descriptive language left a hollow feeling in my chest.

Lori Khadse is a rising senior at the South Brunswick High School located in South Brunswick, NJ, and will graduate in 2021. Her work can be found in Short Édition, the Apprentice Writer, and ALackOfClarity. Other than writing, she enjoys drawing, photography, and playing the guitar.


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