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Tuesday, May 03, 2022


by Dick Altman

Projected to double in size in the coming days, the Calf Canyon / Hermit’s Peak Fire continued to rage on May 2nd in northern New Mexico, threatening towns and villages and forcing thousands to flee. Now, erratic winds are pushing the flames closer to Mora and Las Vegas. —KUNM, May 2, 2022. Photo: View of the Calf Canyon / Hermit's Peak Fire from Santa Fe. Courtesy Of Shaun Griswold via KUNM.

on shores of my eyelids – remnants
of forest/plain/pastureland scorched to ghost –
not last year – not last month – as I write –
cell buzzes with warnings to evacuate –
nearly fifteen towns – in two counties
next to mine – since afternoon yesterday


gusts – without let up – race across
ground at sixty miles an hour – back
of throat feels I’m feasting on ashes –
smoke’s blackened cargo tumbles skyward –
cooler atmosphere whitens the boil –
if cows/horses/sheep/pigs/fowl notice –
who can say – who can say how farmers
corral/truck herds of livestock – in trailers
built for two – or maybe four – animals –
and to where – how decide who stays/goes


homesteads – over a hundred – some
generations old – now dust – color of bone –
swirling – swirling around Sangre’s peaks –
this way – who can say this way – to bear/
deer/tarantula/snake – to bees and honey-
blooded flora – who to bore tunnel in sky
for birds on nest – for geese/ducks/owls
buzzards – if they survive – sideline until
the earth clears – party on barbecue
of their lives


a controlled burn – preserving the forest –
they call it – human-struck match turned
into rogue torch – wind rocketing cinders
mile or more – no human way to keep up/
stay ahead – two blazes converging –
in marriage from hell – hell today – yes –
hell’s tomorrow beyond sorrow – black/
bleak/barren – no playbook to restart Eden –
no mind/memory trick to erase replaying
the present


smell forest’s burnt flesh – fireplace’s scent
of pine/spruce/fir – except flesh gave up
the seasoned old age we cherish – its aroma
of solace/comfort/home – second life we –
with love – endow it – gone – gone up –
swallowed – in somebody else’s smoke

Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet,
reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American
Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line,
THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review,
The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad.  A poetry
winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections
of some 100 published poems.  His work has been selected for the forthcoming first volume
of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.