By Joanne Allred
It hurts to think about creatures caught in the wildfire—
Raccoons, rabbits, bears, deer, squirrels, coyotes, bobcats, turkeys
And other wildlife that couldn’t outrun the flames.
Not to discount domestic critters shut inside burning structures.
Animals, I once read, resort to shock when they can’t escape terror,
Leaving their bodies before the full amplitude of pain registers.
Lord, I hope this is true. There was a video on the news of
Two donkeys trotting casually down the middle of
Honey Run Road—in the midst of wafting smoke they looked almost
Ethereal. People from all over the north state
Weathered toxic air to help rescue pets. A shelter improvised in
An airport hangar housed lost cats and dogs. Found shivering in a hole, a
Young collie with horribly burned paws wound up in my daughter’s care.
Heroically a vet friend worked around the clock for free.
One amazing animal rescue occurred on Edgewater Drive where a
Man was trapped with flames swirling all around. Following a fleeing fox he
Escaped into a ravine, lay in a stream at the bottom as the blaze roared over.
Ledging the rocky trail of this moment, with no
Earth underfoot, walks your other life. Wind-whine thins like
A siren rounding a bend in the road. Nothing left to rescue.
Voluptuous and haunting and tempting and impossible to
Imagine where you would be right now had wildfire
Not destroyed your comfortable, known world. The
Garden would be a confetti of late cherry tomatoes and
Hungry to salvage them you’d be filling a basket. The squash vines,
Old and drying to dun, would unveil a string of acorns tinged gold like
Memory. In another dimension, one where fate did not
Engineer the calamitous actual, your parallel self blithely continues.
Already October, the season rounds
Inexorably toward the anniversary of your future jumping its track.
Nevermore, the raven said, perched on the bust of a goddess
Throwing its shadow in the candlelight of a lost love.
Elegant, really, the way what would have been can
Almost tessellate into smooth tiles you could walk on. Shape-
Shifting, composing then decomposing, the place you called home
Yields to this path: steep, narrow, edged with scree.
Joanne Harris Allred has three published poetry collections: Whetstone (Flume Press), Particulate (Bear Star Press), and The Evolutionary Purpose of Heartbreak. She taught at CSU Chico for many years while living in Butte Creek Canyon. Her home there burned in the “Camp Fire,” Nov. 2018. She now splits her time between Humboldt County and Butte County in California. These poems are part of a collection entitled Outside Paradise that will be published in 2023. Each of the poems in the sequence is an acrostic based on a song title with the word home in it.