“I knew that I was dying.
something in me said, go ahead, die, sleep, become as
then something else in me said, no, save the tiniest
it needn’t be much, just a spark.
a spark can set a whole forest on
just a spark. save it.”
Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poem
“Where sickness thrives, evil things will follow.”
They sat on the back patio. It was dusk and the warm winds breathed in and out, like an ocean tide. She had noticed that you could bet your bottom dollar on the heavy breezes every night this time in late-August. It calmed her and felt cleansing, though it stirred all the leaves and grass around them into a waving, swaying sort of mess. Doors slammed from time to time.
Tea lights lit up the porch, tangled up with the vines.
Her brown leather boots were propped up across his legs, and she kept craning her neck to peak round the porch ceiling to catch glimpses of the nearly Blue Moon dancing out from under shrouds of clouds.
He asked her why she insisted on always going 5 miles over the speed limit.
And sometimes she wondered if she was born with too much fire inside.
He let it burn down, until it nearly got his thumb.
And then, he looked up with his grey eyes and said, “I love the smell of matches.”
And I said, “I love the smell of gasoline.”
We slept with the windows open last night.
After an afternoon hailstorm dropped ice pebbles
And a brief, sunset rainshower quenched the parched earth
You could feel the relative humidity creeping up a few notches
You could feel it in your bones
You could feel it in your blood.
I closed my eyes and hoped the plumes of smoke were getting a bit tuckered out
And the smoldering soil was heaving a little chilly sigh of surrender.
He rolled over on his back, inhaled deeply through his nose and said with pure satisfaction,
“Nothing like the sweet smell of decay in the Colorado summertime.”
And I looked back over my shoulder in the dark,
“Are you sure it’s not the scent of growth?”
“No. It’s decay.”
The evening before, they’d driven home late in the wee hours after the rehearsal festivities had ended. The moon was shy and nowhere to be seen, the straw was sweet and the country roads wound round and round like umbilical cords across the gently sloped mounds at the base of the foothills.
The air blistered with the smell of Wildfire. An inversion had settled in with the cool night skies. She and he both inhaled deeply before driving away, letting the scent rise as plumes climb a chimney’s flue.
Some guests wouldn’t notice the scent.
Others might notice, shrug, say what a shame and refill their beers.
For the couple, this smell came with luggage packed. It held a weight & lightness of being of its own trajectory.
She had her memories, and he had his.
And they reminisced, silently, each in their own car on the long roads back home.
This is a tale of smoldering.
A spark from an ember ignited between them. Twilight and shadows and heartbeats. The moon. He was plaster and clay and antlers. Raw canvas and sheet metal and piping. Weathered boards. He was the color of her dreams.
He always came home.
She was his fire, and he, hers.
They both loved each other so deeply that they forgot to tend their own trails and clear the underbrush that grew long and tall and overgrown.
What began as passionate flames in a controlled, prescribed burn soon grew and grew and grew into something much bigger than both of them.
Out of control and unmanageable.
The smoke and ash blocked out the sun, moon and stars.
It singed all the beautiful colors and turned everything gray.
One day she even believed she was a broken bird.
Her heart would break every time he left.
Soon, they were both covered in so much soot and ash that they barely recognized each other anymore.
They choked when they called out for one another.
The four winds kept kicking up, lighting fires, and the rains didn’t come for months.
The little boy and girl grew very tired.
And one day, he didn’t come home.
The little girl couldn’t find her topographical map to find her way back to him.
But then, the sky cleared and she found her route in the stars.
Little by little, the rains came and fell in soft misty sheets. The ash settled on the singed ground and nourished the soil. The air cleared. Little microsprouts of green and feathery flowers sprouted and hummed in the fragrant breeze. Rays of light shone down to shed a new light on things.
And one day, the compass arrows twitched and twirled, magnetically drawn to meet in the middle. The little girl and boy followed the trail. They crested the hill and held hands, again, looked out over the valley over the plains and mountains and cumulus clouds and swaying cottonwoods.
In the same direction.
Lately I feel as if I’m on fire and will burst into flames. Wait… Any moment now.
And I’m reminded of that seasonless September day, not so long ago, but it feels so far away. The air had electricity in it. The hills lit up behind my house, and had a wayward stranger stumbled along, not noticing much, they might have thought the sky to be alit in a staggering sunset. But it wasn’t. It was bruised.
I remember ashes falling from the sky and your temperament shifting like the wind. And I knew. I knew you were leaving soon. I had recently bought you a white book, and you left it with me, worried you said, “it will get smudged.”