Sun on grass exhales the downpour of seconds ago. Coyote comes trotting through the steam, across the field alive with glitter. Unrushed, carving a wide arc around necessity. Eyes and belly keen. Now stops, quick-sinking to a crouch. Ears forward, picking up a scratchy fidgeting. The gopher’s whole body—mouth, nose, eyes—shoveling dirt from its shallow cave. Coyote grows tense. The fudge-brown body surfaces. Jaws clamp down, toss. The prey stands toothy and defiant, ready to fight. Coyote whines. Lunges and grips it again, tenderly, as if tweaking an error. Another toss and recapture, a third, a fourth. Behind them the orchestra of greens is fading. Now the gopher falls without defiance or teeth, no more than a floppy toy, lost atop its maze of tunnels. The fur will turn into soil; the soil will surge up as grass. The sound of crunching is so faint it could be the wind itself, crackling and snapping.
A meadow ends where all the perpendiculars
Fire is a very powerful force of nature that’s been here for millions of years. Will be here for millions more.
We woke to shrill voices and smoke.
Winds letting go; messages flying far.
A pine-and-cedar incense of imminence
wrapping the stars. Santa Ana, Diablo, Fohn.
Pages flapping. Nothing to hold the books,
the photos, the shared cups of tea, to the moment.
Rooms loosened from meaning. Walls
turning into paper in the hands of chance.
Anything, anything, grabbed without thought.
The mind a leaf spinning. The prayers caught
in our throats for months. One for shelter,
one for first responders knocking on doors,
one for the lost, one for fighters who drove
past flames. One for the hills rimmed with a rolling
brightness, for history to make us wise about lands
that have always returned after fire. For time, for time.
For the surprises tiptoeing in, unannounced, just weeks
after the flames. One for rain and the rise of suncup,
biscuitroot, toadflax and whispering bells.
For the plentiful flaring open, petals upon ash,
songbirds upon branches of charcoal,
black bear upon berries of abundance, fresh juices
trickling down the corners of her mouth.
Maya Khosla’s brand new Sixteen Rivers Press poetry book, to be released this March, is All the Fires of Wind and Light; the poems here appear in the new collection. Her first book, Keel Bone, won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press. The current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, she is also a wildlife biologist and a filmmaker. Her recent film is Searching for the Gold Spot: The Wild After the Wildfire. Her film and fieldwork show that the natural environment, if left undisturbed, can recover from even the most devastating fires, especially in northern California, and her poetry is often inspired by her research.