Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash

Tonight, Beatty burns.

And Sierra Nevada

and Santa Fe

and the Gulf of Mexico which we sit on.

Plumes play in Plumas, named after childhood

friends, Richard, Dixie, Kennedy, Eugene, Rafael

— Here are our flowers

of fire for the earth.

If we cannot stay long,

at least let it be bright. At least

have this part of us, if not our

beauty: Chaos.

And so we go:

Tonight, Antalya.

And Mersin

and Adana

and Marmaris. Tonight Turkey.

Tomorrow perhaps Plymouth; Springfield;

Paterson. Perhaps Pakistan.

I’d like to imagine a life

for my brother’s great grand children

but beaches are going under

(beaches are burning);

human beings huddled

at the center of landmasses

which become driftwood

we dig our nails into

and our palms are wet. Maybe

all brother and I will do is

imagine. Where are the priests

in this arsonist’s apocalypse?

What of doomsday preppers?

Jars of jam and chili peppers,

hidden bars of gold —

are they at least cold

when the smoke creeps in

under doors and through sweatshirt fabric

when eyes water

when water spoils and rises

and spills, through floorboards. Into the ark

which we put so much

(so much hope) into.

/ The sky may be dark

and blossoms may fall to earth,

leaving little flames that lick up everything.

Should we water them now?

Should holy water help?

This summer, wildfires continued to ravage the North American continent. Since late July, Turkey and Greece have also had severe fire disasters that have left towns destroyed and multiple dead. Wildfires are perhaps the most blatant and horrific display of the climate emergency.

There were a number of metaphors I could have chosen for these fires, but flowers seemed apt because they did not remove the human responsibility in the tragedy. They are the footprints that civility leaves behind for other life forms. I did not wish to personify the fires or characterize us as victims of evil, unstoppable forces of nature.

All the names used in the poem (even Chaos) are real fires currently burning at the time of writing — there are about 830 of them. As long as corporations are allowed by legislators to prioritize profit over the health and habitability of our planet, natural disasters and harmful weather will only grow more severe. When will enough be enough?

Map of active wildfires



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