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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

THE SINGED FLAG AT THE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL

by Tricia Knoll


"Two of the hallmarks of a Southern Oregon summer are heated theatrical performances in Ashland and wildfires in the surrounding forests. This week those two are at odds, as the smoke from numerous area fires has led to the cancellation of performances on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s open-air Elizabethan Stage." --Oregon Live, August 1, 2013
Images: Pisanio and Imogen painted by J. Hoppner (1801); Incident Management Team fire photo.


Wild fire tears forward on the Rogue
River, tickling Zane Grey’s one-room
cabin of hand-hewed logs,
in the purple sage.

Smoke jumpers, helicopters lifting
the weight of water, scorch, death
of fire fighters, children in face masks --
the West burns and those at risk
do not breathe. Homeowners pack
again, photos, pets, and wills.

Today’s dragons breathe names
of Big Windy northwest of Merlin,
a Whiskey complex, Brimstone.
Name the culprit lightning,
name the culprit record-breaking
hot summer days without rain.
Name a culprit human hand.

The actors shut the outdoor Shakespeare
plays in Ashland. No white flag
calls out merry troupes to juggle.
Cymbeline’s Imogen pockets her dark letter
asking for a horse with wings,
not tonight when the sky
is blight and ash.

The newspaper asks for more
than the National Guard, for more
from the government, and we,
the comfortable elsewhere, ride home
in guzzle cars to sit in Adirondack
chairs, content to do less
to clear the air of residue
that got us here.


Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet. She has endured fires near Sisters, Oregon on two occasions.