i live on Lowry Avenue.
i cannot remember a single night
where i have not heard the
the familiar utterance of a fire truck.
noise, heavy and sneaking beneath
my closed windows.
a reminder, perhaps, 
that somewhere, 
something is always burning.

...

in the late 19th century, insurance underwriters
in the United States
were known to pay for the creation of
fire insurance maps.
fire          insurance          maps.
not that they sought to map a fire
but to measure where a fire had more potential to
erupt.
liability.
there was a great deal of
money to be made by cartographer and insurer alike.

Daniel Alfred Sanborn made a map of Tennessee,
Boston.  saw a market for the work.
started a company.  made a map in Kentucky,
Minneapolis.  made more money than one could've dreamed.
bought competing companies.  got an office in New York.  Atlanta.
more structures were built, and faster.  more fires.
western expansion - better - colonialism.
obsessed with
building.
assessing.
risk.
insuring.
fires.

...

some things were not mapped.
some presences - ghosts -
were conjured.

75 to Negro D-w-g in a corner of one map.
to be read:  75 feet to Negro Dwellings.
these dwellings,
somewhere outside the margins of the map - but fabricated.
uninsured.
burning.

...

i live on Lowry Avenue.
the other day i couldn't get home.
another fire.  this time at Lowry and Emerson.
16 months earlier, Lowry and Freemont. 
a barber shop, a salon.
now
empty lot, smoke-kissed brick.
site of redevelopment dreams.

...

i dream of burning things.

of presences and absences.
black bodies crossing the Atlantic, 
in the hold of the Zong.
subjugated.
insured.

not even a century later:

a Negro Dwg
75 feet from the furthest
edge of the map proper.
an absence in flames.
liable.

neither desirable.
& both holding something fugitive
& on fire.


Notes

1.  "in the late 19th century, insurance underwriters / in the United States / were known to pay for the creation of / fire insurance maps."  See Richard Scein, "Race and Landscape in the United States", Richard Scein, Landscape and Race in the United States  (New York City: Routledge, 2006), 1-3

2.  "Daniel Alfred Sanborn made a map of Tennessee." Daniel A. Sanborn was the founder of Sanborn Maps, An American publisher of historical and current U.S. maps and cities.  See Lynne Mueller, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: History, Use, Availability Archived from the original 2004. Retrieved 2016-03-20. 

3.  "75 to Negro D-w-g in a corner of one map" see Richard Scein, "Race and Landscape in the United States", Richard Scein, Landscape and Race in the United States  (New York City: Routledge, 2006), 2

4.  "in the hold of the Zong." See M. NourbeSe Phillip, "ZONG!" (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2008)