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
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
’til one of the studio-news-desk duo asked,
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 torn down the middle by staccato shrieking,
a wave of it,
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
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,
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.