Poetry by John Brantingham

A Mem­o­ry of Smoke

Today, these moun­tains are full of the smoke
com­ing off of the sum­mer foothills,
sum­mer being the moment of fire in Cal­i­for­nia,

and we who were trained
about the hor­ror of for­est fire
by Smokey Bear in child­hood

and then retrained to dis­cuss the dan­gers
of Smokey Bear as adults
repeat our mantra

that the fires are mere­ly
the first step in renew­al
or that they are clear­ing the way

for giant Sequoias
or any num­ber of plat­i­tudes that are true
but feel wrong way down

in that part of our brains
that we share with deer who bolt
at the sound of a cone falling

that part of our brains
that want us to fol­low the deer through the fields
and down to the cool val­leys and mead­ows

when we hear that the foresters’ plan,
tru­ly the wise plan,
is to let it all just burn.

brantinghamJohn Brant­i­ng­ham is the author of sev­en books of poet­ry and fic­tion includ­ing his lat­est, Dual Impres­sions: Poet­ic Con­ver­sa­tions about Art. His web­site, 30 Days until Done, gives a prompt a day in a uni­fied way so that if you fol­low it, you will have a short col­lec­tion in a month.

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