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Tuesday, September 22, 2020


 by Tricia Knoll

Scientists say that the wildfires in the West combined with drought and record heat waves could be triggering one of the Southwest’s largest migratory bird die-offs in recent decades. Photo Credit: Allison Salas/New Mexico State University via The New York Times, September 15, 2020

Is there any reason to write anything today
when ink on paper looks like soot
fallen from a malignant sky? The oneness
we dream about flies in this wind: their house
of forty years, the plastic wading pool and hose,
rake, car, Bible, gramma’s wedding pictures,
ash of curtain, ash of couch, ash of rug,
the soot is a negative of what all they had. 

How many dead birds have you ever seen
in your life? One or two bounced off a window?
Maybe your cat was a bad actor or you
were the bad actor that let your cat roam.
But piles of the dead? The migrating dead
won’t be back next year. We didn’t really
know exactly how they found their way
in the first place.

Such great weariness. With flimsy masks.
Stay inside to not be sick – you’ve followed
that mantra for months. You can’t outwalk
this cloud. Or see from one bridge to the next.
The firefighters sleep in peril. And wake
in dark fatigue. You check your air numbers
every hour and somewhere else is flooding
under winds that twirl the birds. 

Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet who lived in Portland, Oregon for 45 years. She is checking in with her friends under evacuation watches, hears of one who lost her home and sees the images with great sadness.