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Image by Ihor Malytskyi
Fire weather, they say: so easy the ember
tucks into the wind, flames the gold grasses.
The hammer’s sharp spark firing the chamber
and now this hard rain in the hard blue sky.
Those wild winds drive it, carrying fire-words
last season’s reminders inviting death
with its punctuated gabble, its hex
from a barrel etched with a psalm. They say
the good lord carries an AR these days,
he’s moved beyond the swords he told us to drop
and what waters of mercy can quench these fires
that we light and are lighting with those wild words —
The Red Burn
And so they burned the barn, piece by piece
they took it down to feed the flames, high
they reached on the pine ridge. It’s easier,
I know, to torch the broken than to
commit to repair’s indignities:
the sagging wood shored, the nails found and
driven, the walls freshly united
with a proper roof. It lacks the flash
of waste, the reinvention of ruin.
The neighbors don’t slow their cars and gawk.
But I am sad to see the red barn go,
a useful thing fashioned by hands for work
first neglected and then destroyed. It says
so much about us, what we are willing
to forsake for haste and expediency
how little we regard what others built
and those lost stories slabbed up with the boards
the incontrovertible evidence
of someone else’s life and work — how small
our regard for this heady blaze of light
The children and I ran through silver clouds
through dust plains and blackened stumps. The heat rose
and hissed its promise: burning earth under
plastic soles. This isn’t a metaphor:
I really did this, ran through a forest fire
with a pack of feral children. These things
happen in Jersey where the pinelands torch
every other Tuesday. It’s just a job.
In the office I washed the grime from my eyes
before I went blind. I wouldn’t have cared but
I was on the clock and we don’t go blind
on the clock. There was that time when I stood
in polkadots watching the marshes burn.
A man sat in a lawn chair, drinking a beer.
My skirt swished in the hot breeze. Firefighters
flirted with me, tossing off “she’s wearing
polkadots” the lit match of their comments.
In the summer the sun beats down, a man
in a wifebeater with a terrible thirst.
That’s how it starts, the sparks from the freight tracks
a smoldering butt tossed roadside; freaks you out
to see it at night, a dark peace then this flame.
The firemen say something draws the arsonists
some bright compulsion they couldn’t quite explain
but they tried anyway for the pretty girl
running through the forest fire with a pen
and a notebook. When that silver smoke blew
over the bay, that’s why I didn’t flinch
figured the marshlands were burning again
and I angled myself for the clear view
like that beer drinker in the lawn chair. Then
I saw the towers were matches, struck and lit.
Then the smoke plumed black as if a pope had yet
to be chosen. The watchers got into
fistfights on the rise over the water.
The sun beat down with a terrible thirst.
Jenne Micale lives in the woods in Upstate New York with her husband and cat. When she’s not scribbling, she is making music as the ethereal/wyrd folk project Kwannon, learning Gaeilge and practicing aikido badly. Her work has appeared in Mandragora, Enheduenna, Oprelle, Last Leaves, The BeZine and Sandpiper, among other places.