the way we’ve always watched flames

Thinking a lot about the relationship between climate and emotion. Here’s a poem i wrote when i was kind of a poet, around fall 2006. It rained like crazy that summer.

 

Burned Hands and Rain

 

There are some things you just can’t do without a flood.

Water flowed over a bridge on the highway to Anchorage.

I couldn’t get to the airport so instead we had breakfast.

The clouds had cleared the night before, and in that short-lived absence

of rain, we built a fire. It was the kind of year we watched clouds

the way we’ve always watched flames, and with knees and hands touching

told stories. There were weather reports and rumors

of hospitals. They said the rain would return before dawn,

and we woke again to dripping windows and wet ash.

See how the palms of your hands stay cool

if you hold them to your face against the fire while the backs

burn and glow and there is something so exquisite

about that pain. How much of this is death and how much

is love, then, those things we’re not supposed to write about

or at least mention by name?  The fire burned strong though

the wood was old and wet and heavy. You told me you’re tired

of people telling you you’re brave and I said I’m tired

of people telling me I’ve saved them. I don’t memorize

the name of your sickness or its symptoms.

I don’t listen enough, or well enough, and I’m a horrible gossip.

I don’t finish most things I start. I don’t start much.

I ate beef in secret and forwarded emails from PETA.

I liked it. On that one clear night, the northern lights

came out, and in the morning you ordered reindeer sausage. I didn’t

judge you. After all, you’re dying. After all, I might have too

if no one was looking. Water poured off the roof in thin torrents.

There are some things you just can’t do without a flood.

How much of this is death and how much love, and how much

something else entirely? There was snow on the mountains.

I don’t always think not dying is brave. I don’t think secrecy

is necessarily strength. I don’t finish most things I start.

 

-erica at age 23

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