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.
Originally published in Vox Populi. Copyright © 2019 by Molly Fisk. Used with permission of the author.
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.
Date Published: 2019-08-29
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/summer-lightning