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.