Late August in the Okanagan 

  
In the wake of the fire front
the stench of ashes,
skeletal pines,

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

at dusk,

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.

Tonight,

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,

their wings—

blood-veined and soft as a newborn’s wrist—brush

our faces in the dark.

 

 

  

David AxelrodDavid Axelrod is the editor of Sensational Nightingales: The Collected Poetry of Walter Pavlich (Lynx House Press). His new collection of poems, The Open Hand, is published by Lost Horse Press. Other work appears or is forthcoming in About Place, American Poetry Journal, Cape Rock, CrazyHorse, The Hopper, Hubbub, Miramar.
 
Read poetry by David Axelrod previously appearing in Terrain.org.

 

Header photo of wildfire on mountain ridge by skeeze, courtesy Pixabay.

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2 Responses

  1. Art Goodtimes

    Gently read, these poems are fierce with a subtle calmness that leaps out at you, like flames, like the wild — beckoning us into its red embers, its diffusions of blue.

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