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Wednesday, September 16, 2020


by Matt Witt

Dozens still missing in Oregon. Jackson County District 5 firefighter Captain Aaron Bustard works on a smoldering fire in a burned neighborhood in Talent, Ore., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, as destructive wildfires devastate the region. (AP Photo/Paula Bronstein via OregonLive)

We load the car—
two sets of clothes and
a lifetime of memories—
as skyscraper flames are destroying
hundreds of homes of
friends and neighbors
a mile away.
Did they get out in time?
And then what?

We hit the back roads,
searching for safety,
with Bob Dylan howling through car speakers:
"The soles of my feet,
I swear they're burning."

Decades of reports said
this was coming
without climate action.
"Hotter temperatures."
"Disappearing snowpack."
"More frequent and more intense fires."
"Urgent transition needed to solar."
"Rapid investment in energy efficiency."

We can already picture
the photos the media will feed us
of some scraggly guy with stringy hair
who may have dropped a match—
with headlines: “What caused the fire?”

There will be no photos of
corporate lobbyists
whose puppets for years said
let's double down on what got us here
or who gave us half measures
and asked for applause.

We drive through the smoke,
community destroyed,
and now Dylan’s voice is sounding more desperate:
"The executioner's face,” he wails,
“is always well hidden."

Matt Witt is a writer and photographer from Talent, Oregon. His website is