After a Century of Fire-Suppression Policy

After the Winter Ridge Fire, Fremont National Forest, Oregon, 2002

 

Despite the flames that crowned the pines and charred
the scarps

Despite the breaks that scarred the farms and left the blaze
to blanch the snags that riddle the slopes like bones

Despite the slides and floods that feed silt-laced creeks
in springtime

Despite the winds that wrack and twine the ridges; gusts
that wick and whip and wring scant rains to rise and drift

and fall and rise again, like ghosts—

Despite the feral lightning strikes that find no fuel to flare—
Petroglyphs sing up there: They lisp from crooks

and cracks in cliffs above hidden salt-lick ponds
the sweetest Paiute songs: Hymns of cattail shoots

and snakes and roots and hares
and seeds and lizards snared and skinned and cured

and bighorn rams for coats and chaps and hats and hooks
and meat to last, and meat to last

The whole winter through—

 

 

 

Los Alamos, Weather Report

September 11, 1938

 

Here the sun hangs like a fat man. A few
black juncos riot in a gulch. Red globe-
mallows, spring fission, lick and cross-
hatch the grass. Though no gadget

Gas. No smoke-blast from twin terra-
cotta chimneystacks. No telephone tone
from what would become Bob and Kitty
Oppenheimer’s home on Bathtub Row—

Here the headmaster hollers at the sickly
sons of northeastern industrialists
sent to the high desert to recover
from TB. Here they learn to lick liver

from tin plates and excavate the Pueblo
village. They stack blocks of orange basalt
for battlements decked-out with rifle
crenels and arrow slots—

This is the mute dip, the dry wash before
the onslaught at Pearl Harbor; before Einstein’s
letter; before Roosevelt would shut the Ranch
School down, and Oppenheimer’s young

physicists would descend like white gnats
on the red buttes of the Pajarito, with those
innocent maidens and armloads of blue
scrolled secrets.

 

Originally published in High Desert Journal   

 

 

 

Report from the New Common Era

In the beginning, the weather was self-effacing
& stubborn. The globe went into a funk. Some
lucky ones found arable land in the unlikeliest
places. The last of the freshwater lakes made
excellent farms.

Then dust blew over us like a cape
& hovered
for three thousand years. Entire tribes disappeared
while we waited. The consumers & adulterers
were the first to go; we gave them proper
burials…

We learned to digest saltgrass, lived on
reverse osmosis––Prayer was a luxury––
Then skeletons returned in a flourish
to save us. In the beginning, our skeletons
did all the work.

 

Originally published in Thousands Flee California Wildflowers

 

 

 

Scot Siegel is a town-planning consultant from Lake Oswego, Oregon. His most recent book is Thousands Flee California Wildflowers, published by Ireland’s Salmon Poetry in 2012. He was a finalist for Aesthetica Magazine’s (UK) Creative Works Contest in 2011, and Playa awarded him a fellowship residency in 2012. He also received honorable mention in Nimrod’s 2012 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize Competition. More information is available at Red Room: www.redroom.com/author/scot-siegel.

Photo credit: gutshot45_70 via photopin cc

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