Journalism In Verse

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The Longest Fire Season

in Environment/Wildfires by

Oakland December, north
country ash, SoCal burning.
No hearth fire for the holidays.

Red flag warnings, face-mask handouts,
voluntary, then mandatory evacuations.
Smoke so thick it’s like an eclipse,
gets a bit darker and colder.

Santa Ana winds, sundowner winds,
rush down canyons to the sea.
Ash falls like snow. Coyotes and rabbits
leap through yards from flames.

My parents loaded the dog, violin
and family photos into the van, drove
north from their gated community.
Hunkered down in Pismo Beach,
waited a week to see if they have
a place to go home to.

The undocumented are afraid
to go to the shelters.
Horses scream in the stables.

Meanwhile, the beautiful sunsets.

Bel Air’s mansion-incinerator
started in a homeless camp
cooking fire. Poetic justice.
We’ll all go together when we go.


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Fire at a homeless encampment sparked Bel-Air blaze that destroyed homes, officials say [Los Angeles Times]


Jan Steckel’s poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. Her chapbooks Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. She lives in Oakland, California, USA. 

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