When I was eighteen, I watched
a warehouse in Atlanta burn
while people hosed down their houses,
praying you wouldn’t come close enough
to steal them away. Now, a candle
beside me flickers in the dark
like a stutter in speech,
like you are saying something profound
about darkness and all you speak of is light.
If I write about all the fire I have known
I might make you jealous, or make you
ashamed. Hell, maybe I’m reading
you wrong, maybe you would feel proud.
When I feel your burn on my fingers,
I remember the hot marshmallow skewer
gleaming over a campfire in Colorado,
where the camp host schooled us about wildfires
and unobserved rules, we were full
up quick of remorse, doused you fast.
Trying to prevent the blaze of Colorado,
of California, of Oregon,
sky lit up like a performance of sun,
the sun hiding in plain sight,
a misshapen ball rising and sinking,
empty of its shine. This must be
like the death of all of us,
a warning in the sky.
Fire, I saw you two weeks ago,
burning in the mountains
like an angry lover after
a fight with lightning,
unleashing your venom
against your children, the animals, the air.
I watch, wait, hope you remember
you don’t have to rage,
you can also be
a small light in the dark.
You should see the bug goddess.
She plays a clock that has been
cut in half as if it were a harp,
strums it like the trance
of water pouring. All swords
thrown at her miss her heart.
She catches them with her wings,
balances them on threads.
Her fractal stare holds
constellations of unassuming
faces. Her stick-like arms,
bony green legs, she perches
as tree, orbits a bounty
of fruit. She circles
the heart of the wild.
Read her palm: will you be
the taker of her nectar
or the giver of your own?
Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College who served two terms as a member of the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program’s Selection Committee and continues on the organizing committee. She was chosen to write in Tupelo Press’ 30/30 poetry challenge for the month of September 2020. She was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival and was on the 2008 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. Her writing has been widely anthologized and her work has most recently appeared in the magazine El Palacio: Art, History, and Culture of the Southwest, Steam Ticket, We’Moon, among others. She has a chapbook out called Language of Crossing (Swimming with Elephant Publications, 2015) and she blogs to support mental health through writing at Writeyourbutterfly.com.