Journalism In Verse


Devil Winds

in Obituaries/Wildfires by

The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.
—Joan Didion

You know you’ll never tame this fear
by writing about it, but it’s something to do
while the katabatic winds whip

the Eucalyptus crowns, snap
branches that fall and litter driveways–
stacks of kindling drying in the sun.

When searing winds ignited the brittle
edges of your neighborhood and mind
in 2007, drove you from your home

for four days, you imagined the losses
and made lists—what you would take first
if, what you would miss most if.

But today you think of the luxury
you’ve had imagining if
as you survey picture after picture,

news from up north: fire-flamed skies,
the singed fur of escaped animals,
flattened char of an entire community.

Today you wonder what you’d do if
asked for small scrapes of your cheek,
a few swabs of skin, identity markers that

might remove your kin from the list
of still missing, sweep uncertainty
away before rain and flash floods push

remains deep into a paste of mud and ash,
just out of reach a while longer, their names
still alive in the realm of the possible.



Names of those who have died in the Camp Fire: 64 of 86 now ID’d from deadliest fire [Sacramento Bee]

Debbie Hall’s poetry has appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annual, A Year in Ink, Serving House Journal, Sixfold, Tuck Magazine, Poetry24, Bird’s Thumb, Califragile and other journals. She has work upcoming in several anthologies. She received an honorable mention in the 2016 Steve Kowit Poetry Prize and won second place in the 2018 Poetry Super Highway contest. Debbie is the author of the poetry collection, What Light I Have (2018, Main Street Rag Books).  

Photo by California National Guard


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