Australia is burning, and daughter
I think about the rare dunnart
in its wobbling through charred leaves.
In a mother’s way, I want
to spread my body as a bridge
to carry it safely to coast,
but the fire would still burn us all.
Even you, my girl, in all
your new skin and loose teeth.
I will try to hold the dunnart’s fur
on my tongue, tell you how
it mirrored the soft brown of sand.
When I describe its front pouch,
how the body resembled a common
mouse with ears tipped like a fox,
you will wonder if it was ever real.
You will draw it in blue, give it wings
as you would any mythic thing.
I watch this inferno like a war,
tally the death tolls of koala and kangaroo.
Still, there are the empty burrows
and lists of names I want to carve
into trees. Is this the worst part? This
instinct to pay homage by cutting into flesh.
Daughter, I break when I imagine
the dunnart’s young jumping into sea,
as children might jump from a burning house.
I check the smoke detectors outside
your room, listen for the crackling
pop of a fire in our walls.
Christen Noel Kauffman lives in Richmond, Indiana with her husband and two wild girls. Her work can be found in Willow Springs, Booth, Cherry Tree, The Cincinnati Review, Glass: Poets Resist, and DIAGRAM, among others.