When the fire burns closer
to a man in California, he stays
in his house. “Where else
am I going to go?” he asks.
Go where the flames are not,
I want to say even as I
look around me and see everything
decaying and voices of the bereaved—
sister, mother, daughter, son—
reach me over the phone, and I know
I will be next: if not dead then soon
enough my loved ones will be gone.
I knew this as a girl praying in my bed.
I knew some unnamable force could take me.
I was not as easily distracted then:
there was only me and my small body.
I could feel the heart beating inside my chest
rising and falling with every breath.
I lay in the dark thinking how easily
it could all end, not yet familiar
with the length of time it can take,
the laboring and suffering in hospital beds,
the morphine drips. Some bodies
do not go easily. Today I’m on an island:
my dog is fragrant with brine
she rolled in. Smelling
is a method of knowing you’re here—
one can look at the dying and away,
toward the luminous birds.
By Lisa Norris