FIRE IN THE CITY OF ANGELS

It's that time of year---Fall, Halloween, the Day of the Dead---

The time when we are most in touch with

the world where trees call our names.

At night the souls, who inhabit the garden of stones, congregate,

fires throw shadows in relief on the landscape,

the trees dance.

It is a time of fire here in Southern California.

It hasn't rained all summer, so an offering

must be given to appease the gods of winter,

the matrix of desire, fire fire fire, the rip,

flames fan the hillside.

Two hours to evacuate.

Decide, decide---

Papers, photos, files---a picture of a child---

Grab some blankets, pack a case with clothes---

Layers---we don't want to be cold.

The firemen drag their hoses over the scortched earth,

faces black with sweat drip into eyes swallowing

visions, another house goes up fanned by the Devil Winds.

Water, water is dumped by helicopters on to the advancing flames,

retardant dropped by cargo planes falls out of the sky

blanched gray and yellow, the stench of charred flesh, a horse

got caught in barbed wire---desire desire desire---

A thousand homes aflame and still counting,

a woman, almost eighty, shrieks. She and her husband built this place

fifty years ago, had a family, raised the children, while here on local television

their daughter, Sally, born on this mountain, scans the ashes for treasure,

finds golf clubs, three of which have not melted.

We will not sleep well tonight, the air awash in ash,

the cloud of smoke hovers over L.A., the wish to douse myself

in water, the ocean so close to my door.

Never has a night been so long

as the memory of yesterday morphs into tomorrow.

The spirits in the trees sing their songs,

The future holds we are not alone,

as the souls congregate in the garden of stones

and the fire in The City of Angels burns on.