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 isThousands 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.