The Sobranes Fire

Published in Pennsylvania English  (2017)

Ash fell like a spring snow—
powdery flakes dusting the lawn furniture,
the windowsills, the vegetable garden.

The remains of mattresses and
kitchen tables and underwear.
All falling like snow.

This, our first sign of the fire
still two canyons away,
ravaging live oak dying of thirst,
bursting windows, melting metal.

Then came the blistered bay leaves,
carrying the smell of smoke,
floating down like crow feathers,
and landing in the grass.

Soon, we would start wetting down the roof,
turn to the inventory of our material lives,
pack the car as we
watched the ridgeline for smoke.

But, looking back,
the image I return to again and again isn’t
the sudden orange glow
a hillside away.

It is standing on the back deck
in that snow globe moment,
catching flakes of ash in our hands,
as we marveled at how very far they had come.

Our sky, still clear and blue,
our grass still wet with dew.
The yellow warblers flitting in the alders, unperturbed.