Monday, June 13, 2022

Ash Holes

Lying in my improbable bed
Protected by our improbable roof
that mere hours ago I imagined gone
before I understood how 'gone'
gone would be.

Weeks later, reminded only
if I walk half a mile south or west
or try to run the trail around the hospital
where the collie used to leap up
to bark above an eight-foot fence
and now a bin of dog food
sits at the base of a tree in the wasteland of the neighborhood
some guardian put out in case 
their dog miraculously escaped
the fence and ran east
(please not north, not west nor south).
I don't even know if it was the collie
there must have been twenty houses
on their little patches, now undivided.
The acreage so small it seems impossible
that I used to consider that it mattered which way to drive the circle
when we picked up Gwyn or Isabella, 
but a subdivision is a few acres. Now empty,  
with a retaining wall naked for all to see, 
All those houses made it bigger,
expanded it with life and love.

The houses that survived: Dan's backyard burned 
but only boiled the paint on one wall and broke a window
and Natalie's, the last house standing on her street,
and John's, alone among mansion-holes,
will be months to be repaired and cleaned
and now they say the demolition 
will take eighteen months,
rebuilding five years,
and ten percent of those that burned
have already been sold. It hasn't even been one month.
Our neighbors gone,
under-insured or traumatized or too exhausted
to deal with all of this
because who even has time to breathe 
or take a bath or read a book
and now this? Loss and grief
trauma and paperwork.
Work. Painful, grueling, work
out of nowhere for no reason but nothing at all.

Even the untouched houses now appear
in my head as ethereal, just one hot moment
away from being twisted metal ash holes.
The wheated grass I love signals danger:
not only the lines of houses bordering vast open spaces
but the tongues that stretch along bike paths
meant to connect people but they connected flame
to streets that burned while others, between,
remained untouched.

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