Fires by Ted McCarthy

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And far back, fires. I tried to number them,
to give each one its own significance –
a huge event, a movie come to life,
each one a shot of communal adrenaline,
the emptying streets converging on a smoke
too black for chimneys, air’s breath-sucking heat,
a billowing, the spit of punched-out windows
and once, an oily blob of dragon’s phlegm,
a sun escaping from a cinema screen,
and grown-ups scattering like playground kids.
A visitation, talked about for weeks
in child-speak or the hushed tones of bereavement.

And then we were too old. We understood.
I knew that rumbling sound was rooms collapsing,
I’ve felt, not heard, it since too many times –
something internal tumbles floor by floor
and though you’re whole, you know yourself a shell.
It’s details now. The hush, the helplessness:
a woman sleepwalking along the footpath,
her neighbours linking arms to keep her back,
their faces grim with fear. Her strength; she moved
like a machine, her eyes fixed on a point
no one could see.

Today I couldn’t tell
which house it was, that row all of a piece.
Memory’s a town; expansion and neglect,
a gutting out, a scouring of the acrid,
a crowding at the heart; sometimes a stillness
waiting for decay to be complete.

 

 

Ted McCarthy is a poet and translator living in Clones, Ireland. His work has appeared in magazines in Ireland, the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia. He has had two collections published, ‘November Wedding’, and ‘Beverly Downs’.
His work can be found on http://www.tedmccarthyspoetry.weebly.com

 

Editor’s Note: As we process the images and experiences of the Camp Fire, we have noted that many among us were already living the effects of their “own personal Camp Fire,” which made them homeless, marginal, or at risk before the disaster. Thus, we include this offering from the UK on metaphorical “fires” in our lives, to recognize that disasters, collective and individual, continue and demand much of us.

Pompeii By Charles Bernstein

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The rich men, they know about suffering
That comes from natural things, the fate that
Rich men say they can’t control, the swell of
The tides, the erosion of polar caps
And the eruption of a terrible
Greed among those who cease to be content
With what they lack when faced with wealth they are
Too ignorant to understand. Such wealth
Is the price of progress. The fishmonger
Sees the dread on the faces of the trout
And mackerel laid out at the market
Stall on quickly melting ice. In Pompeii
The lava flowed and buried the people
So poems such as this could be born.

 

 

First published in PoetryReprinted with the permission of the author from Recalculating (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

 

Photograph by Mrsramsey.

#CampFire: No Wonder it Looks like the Moon by Amanda Pyle

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We were down at Woodrat Flat yesterday
working on erosion control, horrific this time around.
No ash blanket, the fire wind blew it all away.
Nothing left to slow the water down.

the cabin windows melted, I noticed for the first time.
Not broken—liquefied and turned into puddles,
rehardened.

Glass melts at 3,000 degrees.
No wonder it looks like the moon down there
for acres and acres, as far as the eye can see.

But plants are coming back…
saw shoots of monkey flower and lupine,
fairy lanterns, miner’s lettuce.
It’s an ordinary miracle…the best kind.

 

 

Photograph by Greg Henry for the National Park Service. 

Thistle and Brilliant in Promotional Presales; Wren and Molly Fisk on Radio for #CampFire Poems

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Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha’s first chapbook, Thistle and Brilliant (Finishing Line Press) is coming out June 21, 2019. Now through April 26, it’s available to preorder on the publisher’s site. Rather than relying on an endowment, FLP determines the press run of a new release by how many copies are preordered during the promotional period.  Please show your support for Wren, poetry, and small presses by ordering today! Does your town have Little Free Libraries? Consider ordering an extra copy for this great grassroots project!

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/thistle-and-brilliant-by-wren-tuatha/

Thistle and Brilliant is a collection of poems around the theme of relationships in motion–moving closer, growing distant; unrequited love; new relationship energy and settled life in the depths. It would make a great birthday/holiday gift for the one or many you love!

Some love from other poets:

Wren Tuatha’s poems are lively, rich in images and bold unexpected language. She writes especially well about love unrequited and satisfying.

–Marge Piercy

These poems! Exquisite dissections of relationships in motion, deliciously erotic, with a sharp intellect and a soupçon of regret. Wren Tuatha has her finger on the pulse of love.

–Alexis Rhone Fancher, poetry editor, CULTURAL WEEKLY.

Want to write a review of Thistle and Brilliant, interview Wren in print or book her on your radio show or podcast? Contact her at CalifragilePoetry@gmail.com.

Chico, CA Appearances:

Writing On Air, KZFR 90.1 FM
February 26, 2019 7:00pm

Wren joins hosts Kevin and Natalie, as well as Nevada County poet laureate Molly Fisk in reading Califragile’s #CampFire poems. Discussion of poets writing from the headlines and direct experiences like California’s wildfires. Stream on YouTube here.

How to Get Your Poems Published 
Butte County Library, Chico Branch, 1108 Sherman Ave.
Sunday, March 10, 2019 4:30-6:30pm

Wren will read from T&B and talk on demystifying the poetry publication process. Wren will provide lists of journals that are approachable and/or have hight rates of acceptance. Attendees will have the opportunity to form ongoing critique groups, submission parties, and mentorships. Stay in touch via our Facebook event page.

#CampFire Poems/Thistle and Brilliant
The Bookstore 118 Main St.
Friday, March 15, 2019 6:30-8:00pm

Wren will read poems from Califragile’s #CampFire theme and T&B. Laptops will be available to preorder from Finishing Line Press, plus Magnetic Poetry, and more! Stay in touch via our Facebook event page. This is Wren’s big Chico event during T&B’s promotional period, so be there or be, well, apparently somewhere else…

#CampFire: Second-hand Mule by Terry Adams

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Someone catches a mule,
ties her to a sign by the highway
with a bucket of water,
then leaves,
fleeing the fire.

The mule is leaning hard,
pulling her rope taut toward the white line,
the highway still un-melted,
air full of smoke.

Cars and trucks pass
but it’s not clear what kind of help
would help.

Bucket melts
from the bottom up.
The water escapes.

Someone thinks to take a photo
of a mule tied up so we know
the story,

how even freedom
is useless
at some point.

 

 

Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.

#CampFire: Two Poems by Heather Rayann

 

Burned Trunk 5

You Have to Listen with Soft Lips to this One

After the Camp Fire consumed my home in Paradise, California.

The rain came a week late,
battling a dream that
refuses to leave.

I found a lantern.
One bent and warped from holding
too much light, whose
filaments dissolved into the ash
where life once lingered.

Twisted glass whose gnarled fingers
clutch at the remains of empty spines that
once held the wise words of
wretched men and
loose women.

“It’s not enough,” she said
to the beard behind the bar.
“Fill it to the top.”

Flickering light in the corner where
Emergency Exit leads into a
bathroom brawl
hauls her out of a daisy dream
where she slipped that fall,
when the sky broke
and the earth rolled over
in ashen blanket of defeat,
toes to the sky in supplication
to the heat that singed our
souls.
Singing a dirge for the
things
that are only just beginning
to die.

Burned Trunk 3

Fire

After the Butte Fire consumed the home my father built over 30 years ago, where I spent many a reluctant summer vacation.

That redwood tree
has a burned out hollow
just the right size for me.
The fire swept through at
three thousand degrees,
burning the tree
from the inside out.

If I slip inside,
I can smell the iodine
from that time I skinned my knee
but the bandage would not stick.
I covered it with posies
and rose petals,
then wished myself
away.

Burned Trunk 1

 

Heather Rayann is a lifelong lover and writer of poetry, a painter, a teacher, and a mother of two boys residing in Northern California.

 

Photographs by Wren Tuatha, of charred trees at her home in Magalia, California, within the Camp Fire zone.

#Campfire: We Were Called By The Same Name by Trish Saunders

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We were braided, beribboned girls, selling mints, collecting
badges. We slept with our mouths trustingly open.

In such haloed light, we were possessed by animal spirits no
more terrifying than rabbits, unicorns. Our lives folded

easily into knapsacks. We Kumbaya’d around the lit logs.
How splendid the fire, how benign the darkening sky.

Now at night, I grab my beloved’s hand on waking. Briefly,
shadows of coyotes and elk bolt in terror across the wall.

th-1

 

Trish Saunders divides her time between Seattle and Honolulu and, in her imagination, in Yosemite National Park. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, Blast Furnace Press, Eunoia, Pacific Poetry Review, and many other online and print publications.

#CampFire: For Oakland Police Officer John W. Grubensky, Who Died In The Oakland Hills Fire, October 20, 1991 by Terry Adams

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Some of the dead leave us
in the form of a statue,
whose sculpting contains
the last breath, the ducking down,
as in a water game, into
the sanctuary of body.
They submit as they gave in
to coming, burying their face
at the last instant beside
the lover, or closing over a child
found fleeing in the street,
as the policeman appears
at the end in all of us
maybe, and bends himself around
one who is already helpless,
trying to be a different world
for the child, or trying
to be air.

 

 

Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.

Fire and Ice Revisited Following the October 2017 Blaze That Consumed Our House (apologies to Robert Frost) by Ed Coletti

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Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what Frost tasted of desire
He held with those who favor fire.
But added if it must end twice,
His understanding of man’s hate
Informed him for destruction ice
Is also great and would suffice.
But in my present case I note
The first becomes my final vote.
What’s been started from a flicker
Gets it done a whole lot quicker.

 

 

Ed Coletti is a poet, widely published internationally. He also is a painter and middling chess player. Most recent poetry collections were Germs, Viruses & Catechisms (2013 Civil Defense Press, SF) and The Problem With Breathing (Edwin Smith Publishing –Little Rock- 2015). A few sample journals include ZYSSYVA, Volt, and North American Review. Ed also curates the popular ten-year-old blog, No Money In Poetry. Coletti writes, ″There was a time when I almost completely gave up writing. This was during the years 1973-1987. Then I reclaimed my soul and have written and published regularly again from 1987 to the present.” Ed and Joyce Coletti were among those who lost their homes and all their possessions to the 2017 Sonoma County, California wildfire. Ed recently has published a chapbook titled Fire Storm through Round Barn Press.

 

Photograph courtesy of the National Guard.

#CampFire: Cheshire Moon by Catharine Clark-Sayles

cheshire moon catharine clark sayles
your ruddy grin tonight
reflects an awful light
the world is fever sick,
it burns, those with feet
prepare to run, those unfooted
left consumed. Sky and land-
scape merge in ash
familiar comes undone
lottery of flame and wind
spins a wheel of fire
missing, dead: the numbers rise.

 

Catharine Clark-Sayles is a physician practicing geriatrics in Marin county. She has been writing poetry most of her life with a long hiatus for medical school and the Army. Her latest chapbook, Brats, contains narrative poems of a military childhood. It was published by Finishing Line Press this year. Two prior books: One Breath and Lifeboat, were published by Tebot Bach Press. She is in a MFA program in poetry and narrative medicine at Dominican University in San Rafael.

#CampFire: What became ash by Jan Haag

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For Alma, who escaped the Camp Fire with her life but not her home.

Porches, steps and all, except some concrete ones
left blackened, broken off like old teeth,
not to mention flower pots and the last gasp
of roses settling in for winter, garden hoses
crinkled like charred snakes on what used to be lawn,
door frames and window frames,
front doors painted in a particular shade,
windows blasted into shards,
easy chairs, TVs, refrigerators and the art
magneted on them made by childrengrandchildren
niecesnephewsthatcutekiddownthestreet,
their toy firetrucks and dolls incinerated, their
bike frames and swingsets rendered skeletal.

How many photographs, cherished memories,
diplomas, licenses, bills, tax documents,
check stubs, notebooks, journals, novels, poems,
screenplays, love letters lie in the cinders?

How many toothbrushes and dentures, housecoats
and sport coats, bridal gowns and work boots,
bathing suits and raincoats, baseball caps and
wool scarves?

An open-mouthed deer with fire-puckered skin
pressed into the ash, along with uncountable
burrowing creatures, rabbits that could not hop
fast enough, birds, singed, then downed,
not to mention those with eyelashes and lips,
crying their last, consumed by what they could
see coming at them.

Paradise, Magalia, Nimshew, North Pines,
Morgan Ridge, Concow, Yankee Hill, Coutelenc,
South Pines, Mesilla Valley, Fir Haven, Berry Creek.

Under it all:
bones and bones and bones and bones.

And finally, after the flames did their job
consuming everything in their path—
the 85 counted and the still-uncountable souls
of the formerly two-legged and four-legged,
the winged and those that crawled and slithered—
the much-prayed for rain arrived, the day before the day
of gratitude, quenching the last of the hot spots,
muddying the ravaged earth, further entombing
the dead, clearing the air for hundreds of miles.

Those of us left downwind took deep gulps,
raised our faces to the blesséd drops, grateful
to no longer inhale the particulate of people,
their towns, their possessions, their lives,
those we may not have known but whose
molecules circulate in our bloodstreams,
who lie embedded in us.

They are ours now, we who breathe under
fresh, blue skies.

 

 

Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she advises campus publications. Jan is the author of a book of poems, Companion Spirit, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads weekly creative writing workshops in Sacramento, has written two novels and had work published in many journals and anthologies. She is also the co-publisher of River Rock Books in Sacramento.

#CampFire: 101 Burning by J. Khan

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Too soon to sort
the loss. Spin cycle
wobbles vowels,

as they burst,
smoke snuffs Paradise.
Skin sloughs on 99.

I donate
our fleece to the shelter.

Fortunes reside
along the 101 where castles
carve the light.

Evacuees pitch tents at Walmart,
search the clothing pile for warmth.

A few still qualify
for the Evening News
costume show.

The gymnasium
lacks a floor. Sacramento kneels
before funds disappear.

Road blocks tumble,
canyons creep. Truth reposes
comfortably.

Perhaps I shouldn’t,
but I believe in America. Why,
so many ask,

as battalions
of prisoners arrive
to douse the fire,

to sort the missing
from the ash.

 

 

J. Khan lives and works in the Midwest. He has published over thirty poems in journals such as Clockwise Cat, Rigorous, Unlikely Stories, I-70 Review, Fifth Estate, Writers Resist, Barzakh, Pure Slush, and shufPoetry. He is finishing a chapbook and beginning book length manuscript.