Sun purpled at its apex.
A strange wind twisting trees
Before they ignite, radiant heat
Killing the buckbrush, white berries
Bursting into char. This is now,
The journey in which nothing
Is auguried, and what is called fate
Resides in the aleatorics of flame.
Here is the language of incineration.
How far can a body run
When it’s encased in fire?
How do we convey the transference
Into ash? To trap, to keep what is
Known to us? What do we do
When all the thousand hour fuels
Have ignited? When crews
Were finally able to recover
The bodies, they found the fingers
In each gloved hand were broken.
We station ourselves along the slope.
We’ve calculated windshift,
The fire’s own need for air.
When the radios click we uncap
Our flare and strike them,
Breathing in sulfuric puffs
As the neon flames spurt
To the thick brush we light
Making a fire that marries fire
And halts it. We daub our flares
Here and there, scribe intentions
On the dark where every move
Becomes a function of light,
A cursive that whispers our names
To the overstory as we double-click
Our mics, strapped to our chests
Like crucifixes that guide us
Through the night-burn, back
Into our dreams once more.
What we render is what we become
No matter how we read the air
For ghost-tongues, the bitter
Blinding, binding words
Fueling this blue world
And we plead the horizon
Every division of light
Every black snag that is
The memory of what has come
And we look for what is leaning
What’s fallen within the forests
Of ourselves, the far deepening
Glimpse of what some say is
The fingerprint of God
Now the fires have gone.
We doff gloves to run our flesh through ash
Seeking the smallest spark to snuff
Before we sift the next quadrant of char
We grope the base of each tree,
Every dead-fall, sloughing black bark
To the dirt, and in the blaring monotony
We whisper stories of ourselves
To pass the time though we are the ones
Passing through it, embers that have lasted
Only this long
Copyright © Kevin Goodan
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.