Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain

The smell of burning leaves us only when we sleep,
the hills above us aflame for weeks as the wind
catches the upraised hands of a dozen fires
and hurries them here and there.

It is like this every year
at the end of summer,
with the dry grass ignited by
light reflected by a piece of glass
or careless farmers burning off their fields.

The lushness of the rainy season
long since turned to fodder by the sun,
the fires burn for weeks along the ridges
and the hollows of the Sierra Madre—
raising her skirts from where we humans
puddle at her ankles.

Imprisoned in their separate worlds,
the village dogs bark
as though if freed
they’d catch the flames
or give chase at least.

The distracting smell of roasting meat
hints at some neighborhood barbecue,
but only afterwards do we find
the cow caught by her horns in the fence
and roasted live.

Still, that smell of roasting meat
pushes fingers through the smoke of coyote brush
and piñon pines and sage,
driving the dogs to frenzy.

The new young gardener’s
ancient heap of rusting Honda
chugs up the hill like the rhythm section
of this neighborhood banda group
with its smoke machine gone crazy
and its light show far above.

The eerie woodwinds
of canine voices far below
circle like children
waiting for their birthday cake,
ringing ‘round the rosy,
ringing ‘round the rosy
as ashes, ashes,
it all falls down.

I discovered a new prompting site. The prompt for this poem was to write down the following, then to use all six in a poem that begins with “The smell of burning leaves….” (I had a different take on that first line.)

Something you buy in a bakery. (Birthday cake)
A smell in a diner. (Roast beef)
A make of automobile. (Honda)
Something people do to relieve stress. (Sleep)
An unusual musical instrument. (Quena flute. I felt the actual name of the instrument distracted from the poem, so I used the more generic “woodwind.”)
A child’s game. (Ring around the Rosy)

Here is the link for that site if you want to follow the prompt or see other poems written to this prompt.

18 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

      1. A Teenage Poet

        I might! I followed them and will check out their stuff more extensively when I have some time. Thanks for mentioning the site


    1. lifelessons Post author

      I want to encourage you re/ your writing. I didn’t respond to every poem as there is no way to do so without going off your main page where they are all given, but I am very impressed by your maturity of expression, risk-taking and honesty. Are you in a writing course now? Judy


      1. A Teenage Poet

        Wow Judy, I really appreciate that. And I will definitely change the like button on my page as soon as I can, so thanks for that tip.
        I am in yearbook, but that’s more of a journalism style of writing. And advanced English, but everyone takes English. So no, not really, I don’t have space in my schedule for it.
        Thank you for your kind suggestions and comments; they mean a lot from an experienced and talented writer like yourself. ~Vicky


  1. Allenda Moriarty

    We had a perfect vantage point for watching the fires, both on Mt. Garcia across the lake, and above us on our mountain. Always beautiful at night in spite of the smoke. Remember watching the fires and taking pictures from our porch at night? Fortunately they always burn “up” the mountain and usual started above our houses and not below, although I do remember the vacant lot beside Patti Burton’s getting a little out of control when Steve burned the weeds. I once smelled a familiar burning scent and said to Tony, “Judy must be smoking.” I then looked out my kitchen window and realized the mountain was on fire. Giving the girl a little more street cred than she deserved. Aaaah, I can smell it now.


  2. lifelessons Post author

    The first year I was here, the mountain behind my house was on fire while I had a house guest. She left my house and got a motel room, insisting on taking my cat along with her. She was furious that i wouldn’t leave, not believing me that there was nothing to burn! Everything was cement, stone or tile!!! In the end I braved the night out alone. That was the year the fire did come right down to the houses, but not my house and even the palapa roofs did not burn. Don’t know why.


  3. Pingback: The Whole Truth | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  4. Marilyn Armstrong

    Lots of jumping from page to page. I feel like I’ve been traveling through cyberspace to finally end up where I belonged, at this poem. Yay.

    I always liked the smell of burning leaves, but I guess carries a more ominous message if the fires are eating the woods and fields. I worry about our own woods, it being so awfully dry.


    1. lifelessons Post author

      Yes… a little scavenger hunt. Sorry. The houses are all brick and stucco here with teja (clay) roofs so fire isn’t such a worry. At times the entire range behind me have been aflame.


  5. Linda Samuels

    Judy, we are sending small water bottles for the bomberos to the firehouse on the libramiento. I think a collection is also at the Ajijic Clinic, across from Gossips.


    1. lifelessons Post author

      I will drop a contribution by next time I go to town. Thanks, Linda. I can’t see it from my house. How is it now? Is it coming down the front of the mountain? It was near the top but over the ridge when I last saw it.



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