New Lands, East, West

by Ann Douglas


Face, Spring

That’s why we have rules
my friend, T, explains. Bacteria

moves quicker
                than we can
into the future.

About fires, she says, smoldering grass
makes excellent kindling.

I could have protected them.
I could have assumed an earlier
regret—
                Lightning
from nowhere—could have inspired in me
prayer.

From a swirl
of unstable heat, the fire volleyed downriver
toward us.

How could you
not see this as battle
everywhere in store?

is what I imagine she’d say
if she weren’t already so busy—
(an activist even in my head.)

This is a friend who can direct convoys.
She hoists drums and 50# packs,
boards the helicopter.

What a vision
to see one’s house among houses outlined
in cherry

warping the moon as it bores
through twilight to report back,
rock to void.

Such compression on community
like oxygen
spins a centrifugal
model of command
                                across a vacuum
roaring
many-armed, centered
like a tilting pinwheel.

Winding sirens
shriek up Edgecliffe toward the smoking trenches—

I could have danced—
I could have joined our women
bare breasted, ribbons flying
round and round the Maypole
each spring.

Cosmic monoxide and sparks, the fires,
chest against chest,
clack like two bucks locking headgear.
Eventually as God’s ardor
met His match, He is soothed.

Only a witch,
our sister to flame
would distrust prevailing wisdom.

In matters of fire-fighting,
of investment
and protection,

history was taking
itself seriously,
                                whose favored state

keeps us breathing—
                                says so.
You can imagine its importance here. A breath
for seven
                scarves, three
from four, and one, I imagine, the instant

reckoned from a pack,
exits outright

like sparks spit from a whining circular saw
as it cuts through cottonwood.

God manages
though without enough crews.

Afterwards, we sift the creek stones
round as mushrooms large to small

that marked the drives off Jumpers Bluff.
It turns out granite burns.

Then what did history expect for its part
fused to God like a comet’s tail

if not pay?
                It stretched
in one direction,
pared to the Gulf Stream,
                                ready
for that thing like due—
no, no,
witch, like gratitude.

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