Along a Ridge, Smoke
Something in the green abundance
of these hills of trees is on fire.
High enough to be easily seen
from this morning’s roadway, the smoke
is a flare, a beacon, a singed spear
in the battle for the forest.
With this summer of record heat
and a son who is one of the heroes
on the front lines in the West
when wildfires jump boundaries,
my anxiety rises to the occasion.
I picture his crew pulling on stiff boots,
grabbing cold shovels, piling into trucks
to rumble down forest service roads,
last-minute sandwiches jostling in their pockets
as they maneuver packed clay ruts,
their minds calculating the geometries
of the fire lines they will need to dig,
the direction they will need to back-burn.
I imagine abandoned wives and husbands,
left struggling to focus on the routine
of rinsing coffee mugs and running errands,
their worried hearts turned into dry tinder,
as the burnt-earth stench rides the wind
into town pushing a growing plume of ash
that billows and rolls…
Beside me, my phone buzzes
a text: Headed out. Brush fire on the loose.
Running a hand crew along the ridge…
and, yes, I know you love me.
by Anne McCrady