The sunrise comes slowly
a warm sky spills its colors upwards and casts its light back down
competing with the light rising from the hungry flames
both softly illuminating a poster nailed to a telephone pole

But we are not taking anything more than we need
in this city of fire, we are all made hunters
made wild from the instincts that were always inside us
driven by the fear of having lost control
and by the desperation of salvaging whatever we can

Within this chaos lies a startling level of humanity
when I see someone trapped on the roof of a burning building
who begs the police to shoot them where they stand,
where does that sympathy come from? to shoot somebody down
like cutting a puppet from its strings to keep them from suffering,
is it in the lobes, or in the loins? or somewhere no one wants to see?

And far away from the flames a certain callousness is found
from journalists in Manhattan or high society in London,
saying "it's good that Chinatown is burning, maybe they'll get it right next time
it's a cleansing and a culling, nature's necessary evil
an act of God, and in God we trust, that the fire do His bidding"

But what I see here is melted work boots
broken glass lying on a fissured street
people becoming archaeology like salt dissolving in soup
and rows of bicycles tethered to a long iron fence
leaning like weary spectators
waiting to be taken home

August, 2013, edited since
respectfully dedicated to the past, present, and (sadly) future victims of California wildfires

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