All morning I’ve watched the foothills burn,
fire eating cedar and scrub oak,
smoke climbing to the stars like incense.
I’ve loaded the car with go-bags and bottled
H2O and smiley passports and extra
shoelaces, soft pillows, and crunchy foods,
just in case. You never know, Mr. Mayor says.
This wind could turn, fire breaks may
not hold, and if one house goes, well…
Until then, I’ll watch the foothills burn.
To be saved or reduced to crackly shade:
are those my only choices? Haze everywhere,
but not enough to make me cough.
I once read that when the ancients saw
a giraffe, all neck and spots, they said, Aha,
clearly the offspring of a leopard and slow
camel. Everyone was a poet back then,
a necromancer, a reader of entrails.
Like me listening to my daughter practice
piano last night: it definitely sounded
like eighty-eight screeching wrens held
captive in a polished coffin. For the love
of Bach, let them out! And maybe
this ash collecting on my lawn equals
my childhood fear of clouds filled with bees,
and this breeze is the burned breath
of some wheezy god. And what about
this helicopter laboring five hours straight?
Maybe a pterodactyl got together with
a sad submarine and this was their love
child. I can’t keep my eyes off it.
Look at it chop-chop-chop the blasting
air. Look at its orange sheen.
Look at it scoop pond water, limp
through echelons of blue, and fan
its guzzle over the crowning trees.
Lance Larsen teaches at Brigham Young University, where he serves as poetry editor of Literature and Belief. His third collection of poems is due out this year from University of Tampa Press. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Raritan, The Gettysburg Review, AGNI, Orion, The Iowa Review, FIELD, Brevity, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and an NEA fellowship in poetry. (updated 10/2008)