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Molly Fisk

Molly Fisk received a BA in Folklore & Mythology from Radcliffe College/ Harvard University and an MBA from the Simmons College Graduate School of Management. She is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, 2010). In 2019, Fisk was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently serves as the poet laureate of Nevada County, California.

By This Poet

7

Dark Rum & Tonic

Sometimes what you need is a road
house, blast of laughter and warm air pouring
out the door, where the waitresses know

your name but the customers don't, shrill
on the third martini or fifth Blue Ribbon,
steaks searing on a huge propane-fired grill.

Two birthday parties in full swing—
mylar balloons leashed to a chair-back slowly
turning—tonight you're a few years shy

the median age, at your back-wall table drinking
iced tea because you don't spend time with
the person you turn into after a frosted glass:

chardonnay, dark rum & tonic, you remember
her well, that girl, that woman, with great
compassion: her loneliness behind the amber

liquid disappeared, or seemed to, she got funny
and affectionate, softer, sexually daring but
not a femme fatale, always more honey

than darling, her courage long-gone by morning,
that terrible waking into a stranger's sheets.
You don't miss any of it. Headaches, longing

that's miles easier to bear when sober,
wishing a friend would come along and love you,
even though you're just getting older.

Some nights you need a road house, boisterous
laughter and warm air pouring through open
doors, the kind of place where your choice

is simple: well-done, bloody, or medium rare,
and no one gives a shit that you're by yourself,
writing in a notebook. Nobody turns to stare.

Particulate Matter

If all you counted were tires on the cars left in driveways and stranded beside the roads.
Melted dashboards and tail lights, oil pans, window glass, seat belt clasps.
The propane tanks in everyone's yards, though we didn't hear them explode.

R-13 insulation. Paint, inside and out. The liquor store's plastic letters in puddled
colors below their charred sign. Each man-made sole of every shoe in all those closets.
The laundromat's washers' round metal doors.

But then Arco, Safeway, Walgreens, the library—everything they contained.
How many miles of electrical wire and PVC pipe swirling into the once-blue sky:
how many linoleum acres? Not to mention the valley oaks, the ponderosas, all the wild

hearts and all the tame, their bark and leaves and hooves and hair and bones, their final
cries, and our neighbors: so many particular, precious, irreplaceable lives that despite
ourselves we're inhaling.

Summer Lightning

In the morning while it's still cool
we hose down the yard, watch a red sun
crest the ridge, haloed in wildfire smoke
that drifted 200 miles and stalled
here against the mountains.

A house fly is walking across the table,
six tiny feet leaving tracks in the yogurt.
One cat has already eaten a hummingbird.
If you think about joy long enough,
maybe death will make sense:

a matter of balance. The deer caught
in that fire outside Redding, the rabbits
and bear cubs, king snakes, and you know
when 30 boats melt at anchor in Whiskeytown,
fish in that lake have perished.

Displaced blue herons, mergansers.
I am not asking forgiveness
for the hummingbird. I plant the flowers
and water them — who else would come
for their nectar? And what cat wouldn't leap

at the chance? In this world there is order
wherever you look: cause, effect, logic,
consequence. A dry winter, and a car backfire
or summer lightning ignites just one branch,
which bends in the wind the flames create

to brush another. A few hours later
it's 45 square miles and uncontained.
The fire jumps the river after supper
headed downtown and cars crawl away
from their homes in a dark lit by headlights

and flung sparks, chased by the crackle
and gathering roar, song of a small city burning.