Mile after mile, the torched chaparral:
its sole pulse, an itinerant cricket.
Arson and ozone,
the tarry smolder of the creosote bush,
the broken family of mesas.
In the time it takes to smoke
that menthol superslim,
eucalyptus passed into memory.
Colorless, mostly crystals, a mild anesthetic.
Buzz those cold receptors, under the skin.
Menthols: the price of cool.
Maybe the ground remembers,
like the scored rind of a melon.
“Take what you need,” it says.
And what could be sultrier
than rain. Rain, don’t go away.
Bare limbs recall joy they were shaped for,
while eighteen threads of April
tether the sheltering motel eaves
to the patient soil.
Afterglow is an eye in the dark,
the shared cigarette, obvious as
that creaking sign: vacancy.
Heat rips through the chamise,
flickers up the canyon:
fifty tongues funnel into a roar,
ravishing in its concentration.
One live coal in the hand—not yours
this time, not mine and yet,
somebody lit that streambed’s wick.
Seen from the chopper,
kissing the fire scar: spits of rain.
And terrain, like the wrong side of a blanket.
In the time it takes to raise a child,
the ex-chaparral lurches back onto its thorny feet.
Between the sheets of cheatgrass,
hummocks of red brome unravel,
a downward chill
fleecing mesa mint and sugarbush,
even the sage of its room and board.
Where is the bunchgrass now?
the scrub oak?
Land again, in see-through fingers of rain.
And that cricket—a pulse,
a plea: Oh world, these feet of clay.
Appeared in Terrain, 2010 and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, 2018
Poem by Laurie Klein
Laurie Klein’s work has appeared in The Southern Review, Passages North, Cold Mountain Review, San Pedro River Review,
Puerto del Sol, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in the Inland Northwest.