|Oct/Nov 2004 • Poetry • Special Feature|
Dry Summer in the Last Frontier
It doesn't matter now which way the wind blows—
there are fires in every direction. Poor
tourists. The view that they paid for is gone,
mountains and charismatic megafauna,
lost in the haze, vacation smoked out.
A light rain only makes it smell worse.
The season should have ended a month ago,
the fire crews been on their way south
to protect expensive California homes.
But here they stay, and it looks like only the snow
Will release them. Leaves yellow too soon.
The pond where my daughter and I dip tadpoles
has dried up, along with the pools where mosquitoes breed.
All the flowers and herbs have gone early to seed,
rhubarb and basil curled back like the feet
of the wicked witch of the east. Some of
the drivers I pass are wearing masks,
like Beijing under SARS. It feels wrong
to barbecue, standing here watching the ash
settle like another spice on this marinated meat,
but this is my duty, and only the snow
will drive me to put down my spatula and retreat.