Fires on Highway 192
After Neruda’s “Disasters”
In Florida, it was raining ash because the fire
demanded it. I had to point my car landward
and hope the smoke would part, but it was a grey sea
absorbing my body. Cabbage Palms were annihilated.
Even the Indian River steamed. Black stalks stank.
The condominiums spit smoke into twilight.
Still, a cattle egret landed, preening, in a pasture
filled with embers – the cattle dead or removed.
And I was hungry; there was nothing to eat.
And I was thirsty and raised the river to my mouth.
And I was alone, and there was only that one egret
searching for a cow. The wind was a whisper on my tongue.
Ash on ash. Slumber shallow. I was a frown
in an unfamiliar city after sundown. Vultures circled
like assassins. I made a bed out of the road. I made a pillow
of misery and slept and had no story I wanted to confess.
Used by permission.
From The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry (Bloomsbury, 2013)
Deborah Ager is founding editor of 32 Poems Magazine. Many poems first appearing in the magazine have been honored in the Best American Poetry and the Best New Poets anthologies and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Ager is the co-editor of Old Flame: The First Ten Years of 32 Poems Magazine and author of Midnight Voices. Her poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Quarterly West, Los Angeles Review and Birmingham Poetry Review and have been anthologized in Best New Poets, From the Fishouse, and No Tell Motel. She also co-edited The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry, in which this poem appeared.
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