Poetry

The Arrow Creek Fire

D. Nurkse

I’m playing hide-and-seek with the child. In my dark spot behind the sofa, I light my cell and scroll to the news.

The child is still counting. Eleven, three, six minus, twelve times … some numbers she copies off Big Sister, some she never knew or has forgotten since the beginning of summer, some she worships and doesn’t dare speak out loud. At least one she hates so bitterly she stammers to utter it. On my screen the Arrow Creek Fire appears, like a flower blooming in time-lapse photography. The names of the dead begin to cross the picture, quickly, quickly, as if hurrying to school or work.

With half a mind, I listen to the child poking behind the piano, opening closet doors, laughing to herself, becoming impressed, then annoyed, calling me as you might call a dog, then as you might summon a cat. The plume is fifty-five thousand feet tall and tornadic. Shot through with dry lightning, it generates its own pressure system, its own agency.

Now the rattle of the kitchen drawers opening. I could not possibly be there! My Samsung I-phone is hot in my palm. Will it shut itself down automatically? I am watching with such hunger. The child must be tired. Is she fixing herself a peanut butter sandwich? I can smell the crisp almost bitter crust being cut away, the fluffy Nature’s Way bread, the sweet remains on the knife blade.

I am here! Look for me! It’s a million and one now!

Or will you find just the empty space? The template of the body in dust? A bee lying on its back piously, feelers up? Did I live long ago? Was I absent then as I am now?

D. Nurkse is the author of Love in the Last Days.
Originally published:
June 28, 2021

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