Bio Note: While my state is shrouded in ash and brown clouds of smoke darken our skies, I am thinking a lot about trees and fire. "Malibu Fires" is a poem from my first full-length collection, Wild Domestic. "Flesh Remembers" rose from a camping trip in September of last year in Sequoia National Park, which is closed now due to fire. Last week, my family and I were supposed to be camping in Big Basin Redwoods, which was destroyed by fire (although the trees survived!). Fire used to be an occasional hazard; now we can count on it to begin in August each year and continue throughout the fall.
They chopped down the sycamore. I watched a man feed the tree’s weeping flesh to a grinder, flesh so red I expected bone to poke out white, accusing. When they pruned the pine tree, they hacked the branches, leaving each one red on the end, welling with sap that fell to the ground like tears. I tripped over a stump by a campfire last summer. The gash on my shin was a chasm bleeding black in the dark. My flesh remembers that camping trip – cold rushing water, nights bright with stars, redwoods like gigantic buildings, my companion asleep at nightfall, and me in the dark, wet flesh weeping.
A red boil rises in the eastern sky to show a film of ash on asphalt: your wedding photos your tax returns, the couch you could not get rid of. Like a timid snowfall the flakes sift down: your closets full of clothes for each of your changing sizes; a decade of newspapers stored in neat columns in your spare garage; a marriage worth of Christmas ornaments. When the wind is right the sky shows its shy blue face until the smoke returns bringing with it your law books, your socks, your brand new king size bed. Flames glitter on the hillsides: This is something big, they tell us. We are stronger than you will ever be. And they bring us their booty: all those ancient phone books, the magazines you had no time to read, the Bible you held at confirmation, your mask and snorkel, your careful landscaping, and plastic, all that plastic.
©2020 Tamara Madison
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