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Wildfires

— André Naffis-Sahely

Early in the fall,
hiking along the coast,
we spot the charred remains
of a giant oak tree,

its hollowed trunk roomier
than most apartments. It is
illegal to sleep here, it is illegal
to be homeless here

and so the poor reside
in rusty RVs at the foot
of this billion-dollar view.
The headline in the newspaper insists:

“America will never be socialist,”
as if that had ever been in doubt.
Everywhere the rapacious harvesting of resources
yet scarcity reigns supreme. Everywhere a resurgent

love for one’s country, but no faith
in the meaning of government. Everywhere a newfound
love of God, but a concurrent deadening of the soul.
All day, I read about the Gracchi,

Cato, Casca, Cassius, and all night,
I dream of Brutus’s final letter to Cicero
before falling on his sword at Philippi.
“Did we wage war to destroy despotism,

or to negotiate the terms of our bondage?”
We have recorded the sound
the wind makes on Mars, but we cannot
listen to one another. All year we binge-watch

an endless rerun of the past. Eighty years
after Guernica, another coup in Catalonia, and for
the first time in history, the brightest objects in the sky
are all artificial. A year after Woolsey,

wild mustard returns to carpet the hills,
its fire-resistant flowers bursting from their sooty stasis.
There will be no hibernation for us,
no sleep except our final slumber.


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