Writing a Poem for Others

A few weeks ago, I received this poem via email from Cynthia Trenshaw, a poet who lives on Whidbey Island.  She sent it because she wanted to share it with those immediately affected by the fires of this last summer in order to let them know that others felt compassion for their situation.  The gesture reminded me of Kathleen Flenniken’s wonderful project to share poems of support with those affected by the Oso mudslides–or Elizabeth Austen’s great project to share poems connected with the raging fires in the Methow area of our state.  I love it when poetry tries to reach directly to others and let them know that they are not alone in their travail.

Here’s the poem:

Prayer to the Scarlet Sun


On my bedroom carpet and on the closet doors

patches of muted morning sunlight

throb an alarming red.

This week’s every molecule is murky,

hazed by the savage wildfires

on the Cascade mountains’ other side.


On that inferno side

families are evacuated,

reluctantly abandon homes, their personal

museums of memorabilia,

to a gluttony of flame.


Ashes fly westward to land

on my side of the mountains —

small gray supplications settling

on my flower pots and windowsills:

Help us!

            Pray for us!

            Pray for my home,

            pray for the smoke jumpers,

                        sweating, choking, dying in the flames,

            pray for the hundreds of thousands of trees

                        that used to breathe for us here.


But prayer is far too sanitized a pledge

for the murky ache that duplicates

the air on both sides of the mountains.

Any god that I might pray to

is obliterated by the smoke and ash.

So I send my supplications

to the sun that’s red for me,

the sun those refugees can’t even see

as they flee their homes,

fight back flames

and despair.


On this, the safe side of the mountains,

I tell that surreal scarlet sun

I won’t pretend to empathize —

that’s far too painful.

But please, please let them know,

on the other side of the mountains,

that I hear them,

and I touch the ashes reverently

for all the suffering they contain.

By Cynthia Trenshaw



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