Brooke Matson: “The New Season (Canada Geese)”

The New Season (Canada Geese)

To live in rivers is to live among mirrors. My family—we are grafted
from one another, sprouting along the river rock like lichen. I have mistaken
their wings for mine, recognized their coal-black beaks dipping among
the yarrow and felt my own hunger raise its neck. Once I looked into my own
eyes and saw a raging falls, a red stream of salmon twisting like a muscle
across the land, a fire running with yellow feet across the bodies of trees.

A moment ago, I floated among the sedges—the ones with roots that taste
like the caps of mushrooms—the water smelling of rusted steel. Goslings
pushed their tiny bodies across the current, following their mother’s wake
like beads of dew running across a spider’s thread. Then I tasted the delicate,
warm dust, bitter with the sap of unfamiliar trees. It fell around us
like a new season.

Maybe it is the sun pausing like a hot ember in the clouds, or maybe
it’s the scent of burnt feathers mingled with pine, but my sister says
the word first. My call follows hers—like the goslings following
their mother—and then we are all calling with our blackened mouths,
the memory lifting us like a many-winged river from the earth. I glide higher
among the flock, heart pounding, and as I do, the sun itself flies down to rest
on the water, fanning its red wings.

—Brooke Matson

Used by permission of the author. Read more of Brooke’s work.

Derek Sheffield: “Firefighters Walk into Mountain Sports”

Firefighters Walk into Mountain Sports

Straight from flames, faces soot-slapped
and yellow jackets swishing,
they track cinders of century-wide pines
wrenched from root-sockets
and sucked skyward like bungled fireworks.
Blazes in their ears, they shout across aisles
and racks, thumbs hooked over belts
with curious assurance: whether they hold
Pulaski and shovel, or Polartec and Nike, the end
will come nameless, wearing the same face.

One models a hat, and they hoot.
If they wanted, they could howl
at such prices or the well-tanned skier
in search of a deal and a fit,
clomping seven times across the store
and back in orange Atomics.

Slim and pig-tailed, the girl
who rips their receipts from the register
is the last line they walk
before flinging again comets of earth
at something like the sun unhinged.
From their radio, a staticky voice,
the green world going black.

–Derek Sheffield

From Through the Second Skin (Orchises, 2013). Used by permission of the author, Derek Sheffield.

Suzanne Edison: “Smoking”


Record summer of fire
close to home, yours
a trailer, at the confluence
of the Columbia River overflowing
with fish, and tinder dry Methow
Valley. Gone. Mercurial fire burnt the water
tower, school, and churches,
your tortilla comal, torched
family pictures set in Michoacán, zircon
tiara from a glowing quinceañera,
smoked your job tending
hilly orchards where apples
caramelized on the branch, left you
stranded like the bear cub
whose mother couldn’t outrun
the flames, and no eating
the charred cows branded
and fenced in pasture, who were bred
not to flee, as you did, arriving
years ago with a few pesos, holding
tears on your tongue, and a blazing
hope—you might have been
the man standing, garden hose in hand,
spraying down his roof, green lawn
of dreams, untouched.

—Suzanne Edison

Read about Suzanne and her work here. Poem used by permission of the author.

Kim Stafford: “Ghost Forest”

Ghost Forest

Crisis of the flame—
spit and crackle and crash—
with a roar the fire flume
climbs the ravine against
laws of gravity and growth
(the sun kindled green from far) for
fire brought here by lightning strike
combustion, fury final for the old
trees, young grass blond by drought’s
climate change intensity not by decades
but by seconds made manifest, one breath
transformation from green tower to ghost-
bone trunk dressed in smoke, taking one step
to swing from the vertical to the crisscross forest
labyrinth, wood coal spectres scattered as the truck
explodes, the men run frantic with exiled
deer and bear, grouse and mouse in a blur
toward what used to be: green tree
and clear rivulet, leaf, butterfly, rain.

—Kim Stafford

“Ghost Forest,” copyright © 2015 Kim Stafford. Used by permission of the author.

Eileen Owen: “Burn”


A man walks his poodle
on an icy road, past
last summer’s burn, charred
evergreens scattered
like pickup sticks. Rust-colored
pine needles cling to branches
already dead.

The dog noses the specter
that was his playground,
the skins of trees peeling,
cinders on the dirty snow.

It still burns below.
Collapsed root balls shroud
embers waiting for melt,
oxygen, and wind.

The poodle’s pink tongue droops
over ignorant lips,
the man picks him up, pulls him close,
turns toward home
putting the charcoaled sketch
behind them. Below,
it still burns.

–Eileen Owen

Eileen “Sam” Owen lives in the Methow Valley; her husband is a volunteer firefighter.

Jared Leising: “Cleaning the Pool”

Cleaning the Pool

My son woke with
bites about his body—

small scarlet circles

we discover before
the morning swim

he plans to take

with his brother.
I make note to wash

his bedding, thinking

the thing that bit him
slept with him. As we

walk to the small pool

a man is cleaning it.
He tells us to wait

an extra half hour

before they splash
in the chemically blue

water below a condo

we’d rented in Manson.
Not to digest waffles;

their rectangular pool

had filled w/ash overnight
as the First Creek Fire

burned on the other side

of Lake Chelan.
The man uses a long net

to fish out Dalmation flecks

sprinkled across the surface.
Then he sprays green chairs

and tables, putting out whatever

is on them. While waiting to swim,
I try to find this fire that had been

watching us with one eye open

as we slept. Overhead, a helicopter
dangling a wet package coasts toward

the curtain of rosy smoke I can feel

in my throat. I follow it. But only
after spending the day submerged

and letting the simmer of a sun set

do I finally witness the flames
creeping down the bare ridge

like a red spider in the dark.

—Jared Leising

Used by permission of the author. Read more about Jared Leising.