Full poem, The Astronaut, published by UWA in The Poets of New England, an anthology avalibile online and in select stores.
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The Columbia River Gorge burned down just before I moved next door.
It’s up in smoke again.
In the months between falling in love and abandoning my old home
the lush land flashed never to be the same, like traumatic discoloration
from short fused fireworks; I came for the wild flowers
but alls left to hold were ash trails running black under rain water,
and on the eve of my leaving it behind I caught wind of more
smoke moving in, my heart heavy for the uncontrolled
changing landscape, then I remembered New Hampshire.
I remembered the back roads of Massachusetts
and the smell of salt mixed with Old Orchard pine.
The woods were already mine but I ran away
for the Pacific North West like I’d never seen the color green.
I’ve wrote home the songs of the birds, I’ve spoke
of how grateful I’ve felt for every cloud, with each stretch of my smile
pulling the words a little more thin. A little more soaked in the storm
that made me forget how nice the rising sun is. Forget how necessary
a clear view of stars is, my eyes have strained in light pollution so long
I’ve started drawing the constellations in my fading freckles so not to forget them.
I’ve thought about sneaking onto a freight train for the story
before fading out over the fog of the river, like a presence cast off
by a preacher of God because it was never meant to be there so long,
that’s not to say the fire charred my state of thought from the start,
I’m just now finding a build up is blocking the gully between want
and need. It’s from the fireworks, the sulfur, and there’s this thing
so crazy in nature where the heat of a forest fire can sit in the earth
heavy and deep below layers of ice and frost all winter
then creep back up unexpected and self immolate on a dry day,
what I’ve been avoiding is going to watch the smolder
because, it’s not quite New Hampshire. The back roads of Massachusetts
and the smell of salt mixed with Old Orchard pine are pieces of me
this polluted river outside my door cannot replace no matter how beautifuly
bright the burn or subtle the months of rain. I spent time
in the fire damage, hiking a closed trail, pleading ignorance,
and mourned the nugget of a dream I’d built my life on
having flashed by so brilliant, so much faster than I’d envisioned,
it’s hard to know where to go next with the trail markers all singed.
I let all the twigs get stuck in my toes, decided
not to give up on the flowers growing back. Though I know,
there are fields of wild waiting for me back home.
A quarter past and I’m packing up again, yet again.