Late August in the Okanagan
In the wake of the fire front
the stench of ashes,
steers and ponies—seared
obscenities—lying on their sides
bloated, dotting paddocks.
Teenage boys sit inside
an idling sedan at the station
and cannot believe their luck,
having found a homeless girl,
who, though she puts on a hard,
brave face, cannot refuse.
She stares straight ahead
at nothing, pretends she is
invulnerable and they are not
merciless. We belong
to no other family
and this idea of ourselves inside
a fireproof house. Think of us
sitting here as fire sweeps through
cheatgrass, as bitterbrush
explodes, the heat turned back
by mud walls and tempered glass.
Think of us in this room,
in a world that caught fire,
each of us crazy to open the door
and throw ourselves into flames.
Just North of the Windy Ridge Fire
In the lee of evening, in the apocalyptic glow
the candled trees rain ashes onto moss
below a spring,
whose monkeyflowers cast a deeper hue of yellow
in scattered light.
Ten years ago we sowed the beloved’s cremains
here, a grey cloud
fanning out over white sand, the freshet carrying her
into the lake,
where she sank into the calmer diffusions of blue.
when we spark the spirit dish, it flares like a torch,
and draws to us
agile little brown bats who swarm from the caves
in boulder fields,
who hunt in the smoke that shrouds the lake,
blood-veined and soft as a newborn’s wrist—brush
our faces in the dark.
Read poetry by David Axelrod previously appearing in Terrain.org.
Header photo of wildfire on mountain ridge by skeeze, courtesy Pixabay.