Posts Tagged ‘ Seven Minutes ’

THE FIRE

Some anniversaries suck …

It’s been a year since the night of the fire, so I thought I’d finally share a few of the details from that night / morning, at least in the form of an incredibly long series of haiku (about 1,500 words total, which I wrote a few months ago just to get it out of me). A few of the hours of the stuff that happened, anyway. National poetry day, or month, or something.

I may use this poem as part of the memoir I’m writing about the California wildfires,  Seven Minutes, but I’m not entirely sure. I’ve written close to 75,000 words about the fire in a matter of two weeks. “Seven minutes” is all the time we had to escape (no evacuation given, other than flames). Those seven minutes are summarized in the poem below, and marked in bold.

HOUSE 8

[ the night of / 10:00 p.m. ]

Power flickers out

Candlelight, dancing shadows

The night is silent

“Is that smoke?” you say

But I can’t smell it just yet

Muted sirens wail

[ 10:30 p.m. ]

Outside the air’s thick

The animals unsettled

Eerily quiet

“Seems closer,” I say

We decide to stay awake

The children, sleeping

[ 11:00 p.m. ]

Distant mountains glow

Soft orange, miles away

Should we be worried?

“Let me check,” you say

The internet or the news

Fire, far away

[ 11:30 p.m. ]

The light is intense

A disturbance of neighbors

Everyone’s awake

“Pack a bag,” I say

Haven’t we done this before?

The firetrucks scream

[ 12:00 a.m. ]

Just a precaution

And then we hear the crackle

Black leaves flutter down

“Should be fine,” he says

When you call someone for help

No, nothing urgent

[ 12:30 a.m. ]

The wind is brutal

An ash-swirling tornado

Throats scratchy and sore

“Stay inside,” I say

Frightened, the kids want to see

Flashlights cut the night

[ 1:00 a.m. ]

This is serious

Red embers like cigarettes

Tumbling firebugs

“It’s so close,” I say

Shouldn’t we expect a call?

Sheriff or police?

HOUSE - 1

[ 1:30 a.m. ]

Evacuation

We aren’t given a warning

The yard is on fire

“In the car!” you say

We make a pass through the house

Grabbing what we can

[ 1:31 a.m. ]

All we need is us

The kids first, and then ourselves

We will be okay …

“What about—” we say

Instantly understanding

The children have pets

[ 1:32 a.m. ]

Other lives to save

I grab the cat by her scruff

Throw her in the car

“Hold her tight,” I say

The boy pulls her close, eyes wide

“Stay inside the car!”

[ 1:33 a.m. ]

The garage opens

Cat number two runs out, scared

Toward the fire

“I’ve got her,” you say

Meaning the girl, hugging her

She follows your lead

[ 1:34 a.m. ]

We stand there, confused

Contemplating the horses

The chickens, bunny

“What should we—” I say

There is nothing left to do

Flip open the coop

[ 1:35 a.m. ]

Surrounded by dirt

The pasture just might save them

In chaos, they’ll die

“I can’t breathe,” you say

Visibility, ten feet

It’s now or never

[ 1:36 a.m. ]

Just once more inside

One final pass through the house

To blow out candles

“They need us,” you say

And I know you mean the kids

So we go to them

[ 1:37 a.m. ]

A last kiss goodbye

You take the truck, me the car

We each have a child

“I love you,” we say

Will we make it out of this?

The fire rages

HOUSE 7.jpg

[ 1:38 a.m. ]

Looking at my watch

A seven clicks to an eight

Time waits for no one

“You all right?” I ask

Behind us, a firestorm

The boy nods, unsure

[ 1:39 a.m. ]

Firetrucks pass us

Sixty miles per hour

Down the windy road

“That was close,” I say

You follow us no longer

Drive over debris

[ 1:40 a.m. ]

Swerve around branches

Fallen limbs, things afire

Horns blare, tanks explode

“Where are they?” I say

Ahead of us are new flames

Crashed trucks block the way

[ 1:41 a.m. ]

The shoulder, the road

We wait, but you’re not coming

Sixty seconds tick

“See you there,” I say

My call, it doesn’t go through

So I try again …

[ 1:42 a.m. ]

Again, and again

Until we get to the store

Where we planned to meet

“I am here,” I say

You’re a few miles away

They turned you around

[ 1:43 a.m. ]

Back through the fire

I can’t even imagine

Returning that way

“Be there soon,” you say

Time decides to take itself

The longest minute

[ 1:44 a.m. ]

Patiently, we wait

And we wait and wait and wait

Biting fingernails

“My lungs burn,” I say

I wonder about the boy

And long-term effects

[ 1:45 a.m. ]

The line rings busy

We want to hear your voices

To know you’re okay

“Where are they?” he says

The boy, finally awake

Taking it all in

[ 1:46 a.m. ]

It’s coming closer

The raging fire pursues

Fast down the mountain

“Almost there,” you say

This time, I won’t let you go

Until you are here

[ 1:47 a.m. ]

Forever, it seems

Will this madness ever end?

Where did it begin?

“We’re alive,” you say

Through choked breath, your voice so hoarse

At last, you are here!

[ 1:48 a.m. ]

We sound like strangers

Chain-smokers for years, coughing

Holding each other

A family hug

Rapid, adrenaline rush

Death swirling round us

[ 1:49 a.m. ]

We both look around

Hot wind whipping wet faces

A blizzard of ash

“Come here,” a friend says

She heard about the fire

And thought of us first

[ 1:50 a.m. ]

Orange-red-orange

Flames stretch across the highway

Nowhere else to go

“Thanks,” you say in tears

A place to stay for the night

But will it be safe?

[ 1:51 a.m. ]

We can’t stay here long

Emergency vehicles

Cry into the night

“I love you,” we say

Once again separating

Hands trembling, quaking

[ 1:52 a.m. ]

The glow is endless

We cross the bridge, see it all

Flames licking the stars

“Look at that,” I say

Pointing to the mountainside

Everything, gone

[ 1:53 a.m. ]

It rolls like magma

Lava, flowing volcanic

A beautiful sight

“Thirsty?” I ask him

The boy stares out the window

I’ve nothing to drink

[ 1:54 a.m. ]

Roads close behind us

Probably the last ones through

Dodging power lines

“This is nuts,” I say

People driving erratic

Bumper to bumper

[ 1:55 a.m. ]

I follow this time

Run through stop signs and dead lights

Nearly crash; once, twice

“Almost there?” he asks

The roads lost in embers, ash

I am forced to lie

[ 1:56 a.m. ]

Roads become foreign

Disguised by insanity

Anxiety, shock

“It’s all gone,” I say

Under a breath, to myself

Hope, now a mirage

[ 1:57 a.m. ]

We follow red eyes

Taillights guiding through a gray

Much thicker than smog

“Is that home?” he says

‘It was,’ I want to explain

The verb turned past tense

[ 1:58 a.m. ]

We run over limbs

Fiery fingers, curled hands

Crushed under tire

“What was that?” he says

A branch, a head-sized ember

Things fallen aground

[ 1:59 a.m. ]

My heart palpitates

White knuckles grasping the wheel

A harrowing drive

“We made it,” I say

Even surprising myself

A held breath lets out

[ 2:00 a.m. ]

Again we embrace

The four of us, still in shock

Wondering what’s lost

“It’s just stuff,” we say

Replaceable memories

What matters is us

HOUSE 2

[ 2:30 a.m. ]

Radio scanners

Texts, social media tweets

Friends plague-spreading news

“We are safe,” we say

A broadcast message to all

Phones endlessly buzz

[ 3:00 a.m. ]

Middle of the night

Early morning, whatever

It doesn’t matter

Sleep, will it bring death?

Did you hear did you hear did

“You okay?” they say

[ 3:30 a.m. ]

How many homes lost?

How many buildings have burned?

How can we ever—?

“You should sleep,” we say

Impossibly-flat smiles

There’s no way in hell

[ 4:00 a.m. ]

Curled under blankets

We sit outside, breathing smoke

Inhaling the dead

“Think it’s there?” you ask

Meaning the house, rhetoric

‘Gone,’ I cannot say

[ 4:30 a.m. ]

The boy, he gets sick

Curled around the toilet, pale

One cat is with him

“It’s okay,” you say

Rubbing the back of his head

The girl rubs her eyes

[ 5:00 a.m. ]

She stays up with us

Unable to sleep, to cry

Her eyes dry, bloodshot

“Are we safe?” she asks

How can we lie to children?

We somehow manage

HOUSE 3 - TABLE

[ the day after ]

Fallen power poles

Our past, our town, a war zone

A nuclear blast

Chimneys pierce the haze

The only things left, unfazed

Home tombstones, relics

Flat charred skeletons

Metal melted to the ground

Cars still smoldering

We break through roadblocks

Some wave us through, most routes closed

Past devastation

Everything black

Everything smoking. burnt

Everything trashed

A lunar landscape

Ruin, annihilation

Utter destruction

Then we find our street

Drive over downed power lines

Hop out of the car

Shoes melt underfoot

Where did it—? Where has it gone?

A campfire stench

Our two-story home

Reduced to a foundation

Walls nothing but dust

We knew what we’d lost

Nothing could have prepared us

For what we’d then find

We couldn’t save them

Reduced to outlines, morbid

Farm animals, gone

Mummified corpses

Some lay peaceful, some mid-stride

Others simply bone

The pastures, empty

The coop, reduced to ghost frames

The horses, where did—?

“The horses!” you say

How did they ever survive?

Burnt, singed, but alive

We find them on grass

An untouched patch of once-green

Their eyes give us hope

We call for our cat

Lost, the one we couldn’t save

Could he be alive?

INKY - SINGED

Thanks for reading. It’s rough, I know, and incredibly condensed, but some words need to be written. And yes, we eventually found our second cat. After twenty-three days on his own, running from the fire, and through sheer determination and a lot of luck, we found him (pictured left). He is now reunited with his sister (pictured right).

CATS - TOGETHER.jpg

WOR(L)DS DISSOLVE

With a length of aluminum

Melted tire rim

Resolidified

You prod a block

Flash-fired

Thousands of degrees

Books alongside books

Once trapped in a box

Unsold novels, collections

Wherein seemingly nothing’s written

The metal pushes through

Softly separates the mass

One side falls away, crumbles

Type still there

Sentences

Paragraphs

Characters

Imaginary people

Autobiographical plot

You are a god

And you read the words

Recognize passages

“I wrote that,” you say

“I gave that story life

“I created—”

The words dissolve

As you touch them, gloved

Pages turn to powder

Worlds ruined

Stardust

The aluminum snaps

Brittle, like hard candy

You toss it away

Put your boot through the past