On the Fourth Day of Fires by El Centro
Solo wild doves cry by the lake. A thousand acres,
and the flare-blanched scent not of camphorwood
nor fused lilies, not a million eyes of singed pansies,
not ginkgo-fans weeping on fluted bones of swans
from wreckage, not our human rubrics of despair
shattered by the wrath of hydrocarbon naphtha
liquidating our galleries of mute incense clocks
charred by the dark hunger of arson
and dying aspirations of a thousand orange trees,
the brazen fire-storm of midnight’s lost cathedral
of false piety as gold radii encircled torso on torso
of frozen pine. For we know that if the earthly tent
we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God,
an eternal house in heaven,
not built by human hands.
You cannot harm yourself unless you step in it—
a flash-pan so big you could wash the moon,
eight ounces of diesel and gasoline ignited by a flare
on the end of a fruit-picker pole
burns dirty in the parking lot.
Slide out the pin of the extinguisher,
the longest lung in the world holding its breath,
Just a stone’s throw away, you raise the tank,
asphyxiate the flame—
cirrus rushes over a scorched black cake.
One day later, with a wind advisory
in the foothills, Santa Anas out of the high desert,
no tell-tale tinder box in the chaparral understory,
no verbal confession—
only a quarrel at a reunion in the backyard—
who sparked ounces of noxious strife?
Most Ubiquitous Producer of Oxygen
Not redwood or sequoia forests,
nor tundra moss near the Arctic circle,
not the lone cypress, ancient
fir needles unfolding
on a stone coast
or in groves, breathing. Not
rainforests of corozo
and kapok trees,
nor the venerable olives.
On the contrary, it is
Abstract image of flames courtesy Shutterstock.