> jumping into life.


Even now, I don't quite believe in summer. I haven't yet learned to trust these seasons; I was sure this year that spring would never come. Now, of course, I struggle to envision this land beneath its winter snow, to picture the bright trees barebranched, the pond a solid block. But I also don't trust the sun to stay and keep its promises, to bring all these fruits to ripening, to warm our souls enough to last through the winter.

But the green is overbearing now. Some part of me longs for the sere yellow hills of home, though they be ashen now, or the long hot vista of a creosote flat. I long for autumn, and fear it, and fear the winter, these brash seasons with no sense of moderation. I feel sodden, overwhelmed: won't it dry out, a little? Slow down? Isn't it time for a rest?


Not hell. Not fate.

Just fire. No brimstone here,
no retribution. Just fire.

Lightning-lit, cigarrette-embered,
or campfire poorly banked. Don't matter.
Don't you see? It's the way of things.
Tinder burns. Wood burns. Grass burns.
Houses burn. Rabbits in their burrows,
fledgelings in their nests, horses in their barns -
even people, given flame enough, and stubbornness.

There will be those who cite
the hand of god: punishment
dealt against the gays, against the heathens,
against the liberals and their fancy cars.
Just as a hurricane was sent to punish
poverty and good jazz music.
Just as floods were sent to punish corn.

Even the insurance calls them
Acts of God.

They are the acts of people
who built houses too close to the river,
who built houses too deep in the canyons,
who built houses on the faith that the levees
and the dykes would hold,
that forest fires could be prevented,
who moved into a house of sand,
straightened all the pictures,
dusted all the corners,
closed the door on the sea and said:
there. Doesn't that look better?

And when the tide came,
it was no punishment, not even for a hubris
such as ours. It was only the tide.




Smokey the Bear
is on the rack;
his tongue split
as a snake's.

Like any traitor,
he won't confess,
insists that he loves this country,
that he had no idea,

that he meant well.
He looks smaller without his hat,
fear in his eyes,
flames at his feet.