The forest fire outside our house

I lie in bed and turn my head
to see your face illuminated by
the forest fire outside our house.

I ask if you need anything at the store,
since I plan on going after work tomorrow
to get some bread and apples.

You blink a few times, shake your head,
say you’re not sure, too tired to think,
but will tell me if you think of anything.

I kiss you goodnight, tell my phone
to close the curtains, block the growing light from
the forest fire outside our house.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

You're on the edge of a plateau overlooking a valley of hoodoos
dusted with remnants of yesterday's snowfall.
Predawn light is faint, cold; the air shivers in short gusts of wind.

In a century, the platform your feet are on will not be there,
eroded by air and water down the cliff face's arches
like frames of a cathedral's stained glass windows.

You live your life like nothing happened.

After Gifts of the Crow, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.

I cannot forget. 

Whenever I walk by a blue Camry,
your voice replays in my head —
each hoarse syllable.
I see your face in
every cedar branch,
every streetlamp aura.

I cannot forget.

I’ve tried waiting years,
traveling as far as I can
from you —
but the past always comes back
like the tide on the shore.

I cannot forget.

I want to scream
every well-practiced retort
I’ve bottled up —
but they all come out as
one guttural shout.

I cannot forget.

A Calm Lake

Stillness permeated from the lake.
Trees stood still, branches stoic in the wind.

Actually, it felt like wind died as it approached the lake,
or maybe
all the molecules found their spaces to be.

No evidence of animal life anywhere —
no tracks nor droppings or food.
Not even insect bites on leaves.

You’re sure the ecosystem ought to be suffering,
but it’s lush and green.

During a Heatwave

You step out into the yard,
feel the heat’s weight descend on you.
The grass is warm, dry between your toes.

You think about how the only way for an individual to escape
the effects of climate change is to add to it —
a never-ending cycle that you may not live to see humanity escape.

You check the weather app
every five minutes
to see if all of this is even real.

You try to read a book on the couch,
feel the heat seep in through a gap in the caulking of the window,
fight the temptation to sleep.

You try to think about cold things, because it worked
for Gus in that one episode of Recess you watched as a kid;
it does not work for you here.

You imagine what you would do if the power went out,
whether you would secure what cold you’ve collected inside, run away,
or just lie down and wait for the sun to consume you.

Ninety-three degrees in your apartment at 10 pm.
You scramble to turn on and adjust every fan inside.
You cannot find any air.

On a bench by a pond

Something about wet two-by-fours
feels like home.
Xe sits on a bench, wet from morning dew and mist,
on a boardwalk overlooking a pond.

Two mallards paddle in front of xem—
a slow game of tag or awkward flirting, xe isn’t sure.
Soft croaks from red-legged frogs emanate
from the kinnikinnik covering the ground.

Xe could breathe here.

A Note Should Suffice

There’s a tower out on the horizon.

You’ve lived in this forest a long time. So long, in fact, that you’ve started to name the trees— not the species names, like spruce, cedar, hemlock; those you learned on your grandpa’s nature walks years ago— names like Rela, Sophia, Brett.

The black face of the tower is stark in contrast to the orange-green hue of the treetops across the valley in the morning light. Its top half is coiled like a serpent around a shaman’s forearm, coming to three sharp points a hundred feet above the western red cedars at the base of the mountain.

The tower wasn’t there yesterday. You’re almost certain. You don’t remember a tower living there— isn’t that where Storm River started? At the base of Thunder Falls? The face of the glacier still sunbathes on the mountain. It must still drift there. You don’t remember the last time you really paid attention to that area. You don’t remember the names of those trees, if the trees are still there.

You strain your eyes, grasping at the finer details just out of reach. Soft, faint, purple cyphers flow along the tower’s coils, glowing in a slow pulse that climbs up the snake’s spine.

The colors of the treetops by the tower are washed out. The leaves and pine needles pale, white as day-old coals. The bark’s black as night. No life there, no movement. You could almost feel the absence of the grubs that crawled within the folds of the bark.

It’s cold, as mornings here tend to be. The sun, contrary to what city people say, is not a morning person; it takes its time stumbling over the mountain. You’re halfway through your earl grey, meaning you’re toward the end of the hour between dawn and when the sun is actually visible.

Your porch is quiet in a loud way. The quiet has a presence, and it demands to be known. One morning, about a week ago, a crow landed on a maple branch on the northeast corner of your front yard. It cawed, then froze and, you swear, lowered its head apologetically before flying away.

You finish your tea, then pack several days of supplies in your backpack. Your partner is still asleep. Not wanting to wake them, you leave a note on the counter saying what you’re doing, where you’re going, when to worry.