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Tuesday, November 13, 2018


by Jean Varda

9 drops of rain
one for each of
the people who
died in the flames

Do not burn candles
for the dead
they represent fire
and fire killed them

4 of them burned up
in their cars as the exodus
left single file not fast
enough to escape the flames
on all sides of them, even
licking across the road
under the tires

Buildings collapsing
trees like matchsticks
so unreal
watching from car windows

Hearing explosions,
propane tanks
bombs going off
like a war

One turned back to
rescue her cat
that was hiding in terror
she checked under the
beds in the closets
while flames enclosed her
roared in the windows
and smoke blinded

Another was delayed searching
for a folder that contained
her advance directive, the
property deed and her children’s
birth certificates
the roof of her house collapsed
in one heaving sigh

A mother turned her car
down a side street to pick
up her child from daycare
the building already gone
the children and teachers
ahead of her on the road out
she didn’t make it

The one who forgot to let
the horses out
so they could flee the fire
as horses will
He couldn’t get back
into his place, fallen trees
on fire blocked the road
he got out and ran into
the open mouth of hell

An elder decided to sit it out
she was old and this house
was built by her grandfather
She was born in it as was her
mother her grandmother
and her five children
this house had a soul
she couldn’t leave it
So she made tea and sat
by the wood stove
rocking till she and the
house disappeared in
roaring flames
that left only a flat
black scar on the earth

This is why I can’t light
the 9 white candles
and watch their tiny
steady yellow flames
But rather place a small
pearl lined shell
beside each unlit candle
and in each a drop of water
for the lives that
burnt up in flames

Jean Varda’s poetry has appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Manzanita Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Avocet  A Journal of Nature Poems, California Quarterly, Third Wednesday and The Red River Review. Her poem “Naming Her,” published in River Poets Journal 2012, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has taught poetry writing workshops, hosted a poetry radio show and sponsored poetry events at cafes. She also is a collage artist, her way to escape words. She presently lives in Chico, California where she works as a nurse and writes her memoirs.