Garden hose tinkling on terra cotta tile roof-top. Car accidents on evacuation routes. Dry dirt smoking – dry cheatgrass fire fodder – dry dead bare bark trees. Cries of a family with four million dollars in the bank trapped in a Land Rover melting where rubber meets road, chrome rims running quicksilver, woman shielding infant against breast, smoke pouring through air vents. Crying infant no longer crying. Boiling rivers of red wine in vineyard ruts. The smell of campfire – accelerant spittled into flames by boy with first erection, in awe of himself. Hot shot fire-fighters hand-digging trenches, grave faced. A Marlboro flicked out the window of a Prius. Cannabis crops the color of money ~ up in smoke ~ smoldering. The funeral pyre of a yearling fawn. The red stained mouths of air tanker bombardiers bleeding retardant. A drunk with his Yuengling, burning rubbish in his yard.
Explosions –– Propane tanks: Ammunition: Insurrection
“It was like war but worse. Now we have nothing left, nowhere to go.”
You can hear the ash –– shhh –– snow on the globe. A blizzard of flames in Siberia. Chile. On the savannas, the beast’s forked tongue flits over the prayers of African missionaries ___ “our God is a consuming fire.” New Zealand: Christchurch empty. Heatwave “Lucifer” a plague, catholic on the sun-cursed ass end of Europe, nuns bunched in the narrow shade of stop signs; waiting for overheated buses, air too hot to be conditioned; temperatures warping train tracks; tempers boiling; packs of dogs dying in the piazzas; packs of gum melting in their wrappers. Queimando, the Amazonian lungs of the world choke; fire in the tree top crowns; in the canopy a monkey howls smelling its toes roast.
Hell’s fires licking at the sky’s black taint.
The world was on fire and no one could save me …
When the fire came for us, we stood at the edge of the pool, watching as the home we built caught. A live oaknext to the pool went up in flames. The heat was “Whoa.” I tucked my phone, my connection to the world, in my shoe at pool’s edge. The next time I looked it was melted.
I worried about treading water. My wife, elderly, emphysemic, with no pajama bottoms. Blessedly, the pool had no deep end. How then, is my suffering bottomless? Shivering, blistering in the fire’s heat, breathing through wet T-shirts. Skin peeled from our bones as life stripped. Bedrock truths of Chaos and Order lay bare. And like the Israelites, God appeared to me in a pillar of fire. Fueling that fire was my stuff. My books, the cat, houseplants, pictures of children, marital aids, taxidermy, leather sofa, love-seat, garden snail, ground squirrel, gray fox, chaparral, lady fern, madrone, coyote, dog tick, mountain lion, monarch, rattlesnake.
To stay warm, my wife and I held each other, speaking only of our deep love. Then, once again, of the things we were losing. Then, “How long does it take a house to burn anyway?” watching the tedious show of each room, quadrant, plane, sphere, space, the whole of our universe burning. The stars, poisoned by the fire’s light,meant we watched the moon for clues about time’s
Did the sun rise? There were no birds left to greet it. No songs. When my wife stopped breathing, I held her still. At the far end of the pool, the stone statue of a cherub, char black cock, blew his trumpet.