Field Notes on Fire

In Berlin a dying 

man’s photo is plastered

on cigarette canisters –

he’s in a fetal position, pale

a spring chicken without

feathers – they go on,

we go on, smoking 

outside supermarkets,

inside bars when

it’s cold and late into

the winter and all

breath becomes smog –

It is not the smushed tobacco

packed with spit, seering the soft

valley of skin

 between two fingers –

It is always the beginning 

or the aftermath, never

the middle, (blind to

those phantom flames) –

Terracotta soot, talcum

dusting the bones of 

Malibu forests and beachwood –

bonfires with no permits –

Not the blaze I wish

to touch, glowing 

on the gas stove, heat 

drubbing just before

the flesh –

Or the few candles 

pulsing, though

not enough

to make a shrine –

But enough to see

the faces of my

family burned out and 

adrift among pastoral images, glazed

with pastel television hues –


The fires, vertigo

brought on by ash

pruning, ruining 

these trunks, dried

into stalks of licorice like

Madagascar vanilla beans

congregating into lines of midnight –

They should keep me from 

California and desert plains,

the cracking dirt

like flower veins, will

my great grandchildren

see the light of day?

Or will these possibilities 

be buried (no cremated)

under another luster,

luring in those eyes 

that wander into

another ball of –

Fire is droopy, wet and hard

hungry, snapping

down white, hot oaks 

as dawn leaks

at the fracture, letting 

their colors take boats

and mares, mothers

and goats –

A pile up on 

the 405, the vessels 

of the road and heart

suffocate, annihilate

one another, going 

nowhere, inoperable

and hooked to an illness –

We bring it 

get well soon

balloons –

Birds plummeting

through Phos-Chek –

A cigarette 

dropped on chaff hears

autumn humming

summer’s death metal.