WILDLAND FIRE For my son That night, the fire you photographed––respiring And pulsing in the trees’ bare bones, and scouring Mountainsides, and hissing its exultet In the air and underground, through root Systems, capillaries of buried flame–– Existed, neither memory nor dream. You stood in it and rested from your work Of chopping embered tree roots from red earth. Just outside the frame, an unseen man, One of hundreds, you held up your phone To trap a moment. Otherwise, how could You tell it, even you, who have a word Or two to put together? Who could say What showed itself to you that night? The way The world burns: this is it, all beautiful And metastatic. Next year, when that shell Of ash is downed with grass, and you’ll have followed Other fires, through other distant, harrowed Darknesses––Nice national forest you Got here––and crushed the root beneath the backhoe, And gripped the bucking hose that like a snake Fights to free itself and douse the convict Crew, and all the world is glowing coals, And in the trees the windblown fire-crown rolls And surfs, devouring miles, and smoky suns Rise, or not, you’ll find you can’t say when You took what photograph, what year, what hour, What you––unseen and there––what breath, what fire.
FLOWER PRESS While you were away, the winter- Red camellias bloomed. Each center, Gold-filamented, Lush but unscented, Invented Its splendor, As though ex nihilo, again, Again. They made a constant rain, Petals on the grass. In the flower press, They are less A refrain Of that passion-red than a sigh, Browned, brittle, onion-paper-dry. Still I kept them. Make Of this what you like. Or unmake It. What I Want to say is, I thought of you When the trees bloomed. I thought of you When the petals fell. Though we think of smell As the bell In the blue Distances of memory, it Was, I think, the cold crimson hit To the eyes first thing On Sunday morning – Wren’s warning From the split Fence, the brilliant day, your absence In it – that made some sudden sense, A grace note in my Mind. And that is why, Today, I Make presents Of these faded-parchment flower Pages. I give you one bright hour When I missed you: gone Now as you were then. Here’s a wren. Here’s the spoor Of that March morning, here and fled. Here are these dry petals, faintly red, That hold memory, Temporarily Offered me And tended.
RAIN AT MAEKAWA IN SOSHU On the woodcut print by Kawase Hasui One human figure Carrying an umbrella Makes the street a flood Of miracle. She Has stepped out onto floating Lit windows broken By the rain’s dropped nails Into shatters of melted Glow, with dark edges Where clustered houses Have laid down their cowbell roofs, Blind walls. In the rain, Night goes on falling Until it’s a river she Stands on, skirts kilted, Looking away – where? – Holding her white umbrella, Stalked by her shadow. Editor's Note: Here's a link to "Rain at Maekawa in Soshu".
Sally Thomas is the author of a poetry collection, Motherland (Able Muse Press 2020) and two poetry chapbooks. She lives with her family in North Carolina.