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Brushfire
by Kate Magill

Parched would be too easy.
So, too, scorched.

Let me show you, then,
what is not here.

No birdsong in the backyard,
no cicada thrum,

no children in the street
this time of year.

And warmth? No warmth
in a place so hot.

Nothing round
and nothing green.

Nothing capable
of an embrace.

What grows,
grows solitary sharp.

Back east, the wind
blows sticky.

You could believe
it's someone's breath,

a humid presence
at the back of your neck.

The wind out here is no one.
You're eternally alone.

It must be the dust
bringing tears to your eyes.

Don't mention the heat.
Draw the blinds.

Let the dry branches chatter,
the AC hum.

Sealed deep,
you will not smell the smoke,

won't see the flames lapping
at the concrete walls.

The sirens' howls
bring you out at last.

Water arcs lush
and warps the sun,

echoing those
decadent fountains,

and the bare earth
is seemingly sated.

Let me show you
what is left.

A hunger here,
stronger even than the thirst:

Hunger of bleached bones
and stray cats,

hunger of those
eternally alone,

hunger of a dropped match
in khaki grass,

hunger that engulfs
like a sunset too close.
Smoke clears, and still
such a paucity of green.

Come morning,
not the blackened trunks

that grab you
but their utter lack of leaves.

 


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