Burning Stranger

Untitled, Robert McGrady

You, stranger, smell of rotting bananas but you smile like my mother after she covers the dining room table in candles and closes the lights. You stagger-step slow, like my father when he walks up the drive in the early afternoon, after the night hospital shift, to his sun-lit room for sleep. Let’s think of lighter things together. Your belongings— black tarp, dirty towel, bean tin can—flat and lone on the shock-white sidewalks like a track of black candle-wicks, awaiting your rotting flame. Between your shoulders an incendiary mold, planted in you by beasts a long time ago, spoils your young, teasing years with its fuming body. It lights the pink pit of your despair, the home inside your mind. It burns through your body like a dark crime. Your voice, rasped and tired, falls far from me like the alto choir boys at the Christmas concert who sang gospel from the dark balcony. Their white faces emerged from the blackness in spheres, reddened, as if they were reflections of the pews caught ablaze, glowing cherry and mortal in God’s dark home. I think of the single candles we lit for their shadow, rainy voices. I think of this while seeing you.


About the Author

Sunny Nagpaul  · University of Vermont

Sunny Nagpaul is a writer based in Burlington, Vermont. She is currently working on a collection of flash fiction centered around the effects of the pandemic. “Burning Stranger” first appeared in The Gist

About the Artist

Robert McGrady · University of Minnesota

Robert McGrady is a multidisciplinary performer and visual artist, working in drawing, printmaking, and theatre. His work often explores the relationship between gender, intimacy, and power. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Art, and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. This piece first appeared in The Tower. 

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