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Saturday, July 24, 2021


by Liz Ahl

A satellite view of the Bootleg Fire burning in Oregon last week.Credit: NOAA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CIRA via The New York Times.

While flash floods hurl  
muddy torrents elsewhere, 
this NYC-sized fire lets loose  
its own brand of torrent,  
floods the drought-dried mountains 
with its hungry spill. 
I broadcast a cruel variant  
of prayer: that the destruction  
wreaked by the last big fires 
is still stark moonscape enough  
to refuse this newest ravaging;  
that the forest hasn’t recovered enough yet, 
that the masochistic cheatgrass  
hasn’t sprung up enough in between  
the skeletal remains of the trees,  
that the Winter Ridge—awful wish!
might still be more barren wound than healed;  
that it can’t offer enough fuel yet  
to carry such a conflagration further 
or to deliver its blazing deluge all the way 
to the shrinking shores of the lakes 
or, somehow, beyond. 
That we won’t have to wait or pray 
for the too-late balm of October rains.  
That this ongoing ruin  
might have some use against itself. 

Liz Ahl is the author of Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017), as well as several chapbooks of poetry. Much of her recent published work was composed or revised during visits to the Playa Artist Residency Program, on the shore of Summer Lake, currently threatened by the Bootleg fire. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire.