Tell Us

Two poems by Rob Carney

is the author of five books of poems, most recently The Book of Sharks and 88 Maps, which was named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. In 2014 he received the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry.

Tell Us One of Your Memories

When I lived in Spokane in October ’91,
everything north of the city caught on fire.

I’m sure you can imagine it.
A woman dead. And hundreds more

without their homes. Their furniture—
ash. Their curtains—

ash. The front doors to their futures—
ash. The places they’d folded or hung up their clothes

just deeper heaps of ashes now.
And the glass and plastic of their TVs

melted, and the music inside their pianos
gutted, and the time

burned out of their clocks
and everything

just some bricks from the chimney left,

and somehow an untouched stroller,
and the title to the truck if they grabbed it,

the title to the boat,
a couple of photographs.

I thought I could imagine it too
until the news got close enough to show us:

forty straight days of drought after summer,
and the winds blowing sixty miles an hour,

and the heat from the flames creating
cyclones of fire

that went spinning across the ground, spiralling
up a tree trunk, erupting,

then spinning ahead
to the next.

The woman sent out with her microphone
was halfway spinning too, pointing

and turning and talking
and pointing,

’til one of the studio-news-desk duo asked,
‘What’s that?’

Not crying.
Not new-arriving sirens.

Not any kind of sound I’d heard before.
‘What’s that noise in the background?’

A wailing. Low to high.
Then sustained.

Then torn down the middle by staccato shrieking,
a wave of it,

then another,
then wailing again,

like the wind screaming through us
if our skulls were hollow.

‘Coyotes,’ she told them.
‘Maybe twenty or thirty.

It’s a circle of fire,
and they’re surrounded.’

How could they cut away to loudmouth commercials?
But they did.

The wind was what caused it: power lines
knocked down

and those livewire

There’s a metaphor there if I cared
to unpack it,

but I don’t.
I only want to say I’m sorry.

For the panic-song north of Spokane that October.
For that final chorus of coyotes.

In all the years since then,
it’s the saddest sound I know.


Tell Us One of Your Rituals

In spring, we honour fire while everything
is green. We wait

for the eight signs—those upslope
boulders—to re-emerge from snow,

then stoke the bonfire
with all that needs to burn:

the husks of One day,
skeletons of Yes,

our dials
that only go from Medium

to Minus . . .
we turn them into heat and light and ash.

And then what happens?’

Then the year starts over.
I never said we were different than the grass.


Dark Mountain: Issue 14 TERRA

The Autumn 2018 issue is a collection of prose, photography and printwork about journeys, place and belonging

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