Poem of the Month: Fire and Water by Karen Hesli






Dear Kate
it’s been over two weeks since the ordeal
and barely a meal
has been et
without wondering what’s next?

The adrenalin courses through the blood
scattering thoughts like mud.
In mid sentence something may interfere —
an urgency from nowhere appears —
like tools and bits left on the ground,
ashes swirling all around.

Perhaps later, the sentence, incomplete,
will return, like a found sock under the seat.
And sometimes by the river when very still
the birds come close…we feel the thrill
of their chirp, their song so reassuring —
oh…the simple comfort of birding!
For that moment the world is set aright
from the hold of that fiery night.

When walls held flames and heat
the canyon oven baked itself so deep
as if from ice, boulders cracked in half
howling dragons zigzagging a path.

The burning and churning of her power
improved the prospect of new wild flowers
      “up from ashes” they say…
      …mystery does not weigh
      …just comes to play, any day
      just comes to play, any day.

For as sure as the mountains have from fire sprung
as sure as the meadow is lit by the sun
as sure as the sandbags now filling our cart
we love you dear fire, deep in our heart.  

Then flash flood rose quickly,
and the body rash so prickly!
tears flowing unannounced
when friends pronounce
their glad tidings we survived,
Yes, it’s good to be alive!

Oh, the barren burned earth
will not freeze in fear’s rebirth.
Fire delivers beyond desire…
a warmed-up, rekindled wonder of life
…on the edge of the river canyon knife.

So back atcha, Kate — with tinsel and snow
we hike in the ash now where trees used to grow!
Here’s to the light of Christmas shining through—
our smoky skies used to be blue!
Canyons and crannies we have never seen
no longer covered by chaparral’s green.
The moonscape — charred and grayer
Once hidden boulders become altars for prayer

Recovering now from stress and the smoke
      poor Tully seems a bit worried ’bout his folk…
having danced and shaken hands with the fire god,
      now they’re forgetting to feed their dog!


Karen Hesli has been a lifelong educator, including being a teacher and Head at Oak Grove School in Ojai, California.  She enjoys “catching a poem when it comes through” and accompanying her grandson Felix on hiking adventures.  Her current grappling/pondering includes: how to live in this world, and what do teachers need to do right by their students?   


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