After the West Texas Fires

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
May 16, 2017

San Pedro River Review published this poem in the Fall 2012 issue.  It was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize:
After the West Texas Fires

One year later, char still creeps
across the bluffs and gullies
like the fingers of a dark frost.
The highway here and there is fringed
with green from last week’s rain.

The trees, though, are mostly dead
for good, those still upright eroding
to sharp black trunks as their limbs
weather away.  This land is stark,
a stoic witness to the ancient seas

that swelled and drained.  To
volcanoes that burst their glowing
seams and slipped their hot, slow
tongues into every crevice, every gorge.
Of those prehistoric trials, little

evidence remains.  Fused
coprolitic clumps of iron, bivalve
fossils on the highest, driest cliffs.
Today, driving through this aftermath
of fire, with these crumbling silhouettes

of death spiking the horizon, I ponder
the Cretaceous, the Paleogene,
and wonder how this time will be
known.  Trial by fire brands the heart;
the burned earth a hair shirt scraping

raw.  This may be the Martyr’s Age,
when each hill has become another
timbered frame for the ageless, constant
sky to stretch its smooth blue back upon,
lie quiet as it is hammered down.

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