A Lesson On Fire by Morgan Noll

A brief history lesson:

In the 1920s, the National Fire Protection Association found that many people were misinterpreting the word “inflammable.” Many did not know the word meant the same thing as the more recent adaptation, “flammable” which means “capable of being easily ignited.” The NFPA advocated for the use of “flammable” on all labels, in hopes that this version would be more widely understood and could reduce the risk of injury.

An oral history:

The first time I told him I took scissors to my skin,

He got angry

And at first I thought it was out of love

I wrote a story about colors as emotions

About how confusing it is that love and hate are the same shade

There weren’t just red flags

There were fire alarms

Telling me to get the hell out

But like my father I have selective hearing

I could always hear the ringing,

But I blocked out the sound

The first time

He came in my mouth without asking

I couldn’t tell if it tasted like desire or disgust

Actually, it tasted fucking disgusting

But his face showed desire

So I wondered who was reading the situation wrong

As I spit in the sink I was worried

About making him feel

Undesirable and maybe,


The first time—

He was my first time

So I learned it all from him

Or so he likes to think

That he lit the fire between my legs

But I knew I was learning it wrong

I learned in church that it wasn’t as good after the first time

And wouldn’t I want to give my husband that first time feeling?

I learned that every time I let a man take me,

I was letting him take away from me

I learned that I would become

Undesirable and certainly,


The first time I finally got him to admit

That he cheated on me

I felt both victory and defeat


Because I knew the whole time


Because I now knew it was over


The USDA Forest Service defines controlled burning as, “any fire intentionally ignited to meet specific land management objectives, such as to reduce flammable fuels, restore ecosystem health, recycle nutrients, or prepare an area for new trees or vegetation.”

I still keep my heart coated in gasoline

But this time,

I’m holding the match.