Days after the great 1906 Earthquake
Jack and Charmian London rode their horses
from Glen Ellen into Santa Rosa
to visit Burke’s Sanitarium
looking for the salve of utopia:
tent cabins set up on a hillside next to rock bedded
creeks, wind whispering through fragrant bay leaves.
What they found then, was what we see now:
on the surface, blackened hills, a city
that still smolders at its foundations.
Charred houses lean against the smoke-choked sky.
Flames eat at what is left; fear seethes.
And though the lumber was scarce
and still sticky with sap, and though
there were too few strong arms to wield hammers,
everything that was lost a century ago was rebuilt.
You see, in this city, again and again, kindness pushes
up from the parched soil like a good crop.
After the Seventh Night of the Northern California Wildfires
For seven nights there were no stars, only sky
muted by smoke. On the first night, the dry bones
of the past rattled the eaves of valley oaks
on the hillside. Then, raging, hot-throated wind stirred
and sparked flames. Until the mountain
cracked open: red-lava heart pouring down.
A man or a woman is most alone
when he or she looks at the moon stained red,
at the hillside glowing hot as a stoked furnace.
Every house feels to be a single cell
of the same beast: fragile and ignitable.
And the days drift on – safety looming off
horizon, a far-off ship. But so long
as we can see far enough we never tire.