SECOND PLACE: Woman Walks through Mall in Flames

By Mary Jo Stevens

Witnesses told police

they saw her enter the store,

that she held a dozen

red roses across her arms.

Like she was carrying a baby.


A blonde working at the florist

after school and on weekends,

watched her count out $32.98,

in change and torn, crumpled ones,

pulled from her jeans pockets.


While having his hand treated

for burns a balding man told

reporters he’d tried to push her

to the floor and roll her.

She just walked out the door.


Cell phone photos posted

on web sites show her,

in flames, sodium bicarbonate

from a fire extinguisher aimed at her —

or from the back, still burning —

still walking.


It was a muggy August day.

Three women met for lunch.

In the coffee shop CNN played

on the wall-mounted screen.

Top story — California wildfires.


They ate deli sandwiches,

drank coffee, laughed and talked —

about Canada geese, teaching

in college, what people need

from therapy.


In the Mall of the Americas,

in the store where her daughter worked,

in The Savage Boutique,

Cecelia Casals, 42, drenched

in gasoline, went up in flames.