Trees on Fire: Poem for the 1991 Tunnel Hill Fire

by Hilary King


A blade of grass in its last black breath

               blew the flame uphill.

I caught that scorching kiss. At my feet

               a pile of my own tender.

I grew tall here on the hill. Hot and dry as home,

               the canyon ringing with birdsong,

the road winding around shingled cottages

               like ribbon round a finger.

In my branches, I held the afternoon light,

               dappling our shadows.

I thought this springing in my leaves was

               happiness at last. No.

This oil was loneliness, not catching fire

               but spreading it.


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