In the Smoke

Forest fire

Smoke sweeps through Oakland
like a serial killer ravaging lungs
while inside
a woman says to her friend,

The smoke no longer carries
burnt bodies
from the people of Paradise.

Around noon, the Camp Fire
moved on to the forest
that once hugged the town
now aflame on TV and phone screens.

It’s better to breathe burnt trees
than burnt bodies, right?

I flip on my face mask,
leave the cafe into a sunset haze
past neighbors with only
their eyes in sight.

At home, I welcome indoor air
when the couple I rent from
stumbles in through the back door.

They take off their masks,
inhaling the clean.

Hey do you wanna share a smoke?
David asks. Yeah. I just bought a pack,
Beth answers with a smile.

They stand in the doorway,
leaning outside
where they strike a match
to light a new fire.

Poem by Keith Mark Gaboury

Keith Mark Gaboury earned a M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. His poems have appeared in such publications as Poetry Quarterly and New Millennium Writings along with chapbooks through Duck Lake Books and The Pedestrian Press. Keith lives in Oakland, California. Learn more at