Wasteland: On The California Wildfires

By Forrest Gander

Green spring grass on
the hills had cured
by June and by July

gone wooly and
brown, it crackled
underfoot, desiccated while

within the clamor of live
oaks, an infestation of
tiny larvae clung

to the underleaves,
feeding between
veins. Their frass, that

fine dandruff of excrement
and boring dust, tinkled
as it dropped onto dead leaves

below the limbs. You
could hear it twenty
feet away, tinkling.

Across the valley, on
Sugarloaf Ridge, the full
moon showed up

like a girl doing cartwheels.
No one goes on living
the life that isn’t there.

Below a vast column of
smoke, heat, flame, and
wind, I rose, swaying

and tottering on my
erratic vortex, extemporizing
my own extreme weather, sucking up

acres of scorched
topsoil and spinning it
outward in a burning sleet

of filth and embers that
catapulted me forward
with my mouth open

in every direction at once. So
I came for you, churning, turning
the present into purgatory

because I need to turn
everything to tragedy before
I can see it, because

it must be
leavened with remorse
for the feeling to rise.

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