with his brittle fingers buried into the hillside,
the old man pulled himself from the crevice,
his shoulders cracking like clay bricks baking in the sun.
dirt creased the lines on his face,
and as he pulled himself upwards he clenched his jaw rigid,
grinding his teeth to chalk dust.
with every last moral fiber
he pulled himself from the depths of hell,
looking not to the horizon
but to the ground, inches before him.
and upon reaching the top
he swallowed a thick piece of air
and gave a warm embrace to the soil he'd been under
for so many years.
and there on his knees,
bloody and burned,
beaten and spurned,
he drew a single match from his boot,
struck it across a flintstone
and set fire to the slippery, black oil that soaked his clothing
and coated his skin.
and as he became engulfed in flames
the oil receded from
the cracks in his hands,
and the cool wind swept o'er the hillside
and across his sallow skin.
and as the flames sparked and faded away,
shimmering, flickering, and fluttering desperately
like moths in the rain,
he stood up,
brushed the ash from his jacket,
straightened his rusty knees,
closed his eyes,
and walked away.
another day s u r v i v e d.