As many of you may know, New Mexico is enduring two enormous wildfires. One of them, the Black Fire in the Gila National Forest, started on May 13, 2022 and has consumed 296, 895 acres so far. The first rain in many months fell today in brief scattered storms, giving us hope for an early monsoon season. As the storm found me at the tail end of my run, I was overjoyed to be pelted with huge drops and to see the horizon blurred by clouds of moisture instead of clouds of smoke. It was nowhere near enough, but it was a start.
The title of the poem below comes from a phrase in the Forest Service updates on the fire.
Human Caused, Under Investigation
In the first days after the start of the fire,
Two friends and I found ghost leaves.
One leaf each.
Perfect, charred-black, carried on the wind to land
In their hands
or at my feet
and then crumble.
The last words of dying trees.
Memorial Day weekend, 2022, Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico.
Smoke rolls along the northwest horizon.
A truck rolls down the road at the top of the hill, two giant American flags flapping.
The flags at the park hang at half staff
For the victims of more mass shootings.
A bend in the trail leads toward blue sky.
Then it curves back toward the haze.
A smoke-red sun glows sick and strange
between the branches of an old desert juniper.
A cloud of tiny wings,
A crowd of western pygmy blues,
the world’s smallest butterfly,
flutters in the arms of the tree
Like the souls of dead children.