Poetry - Issue 02 | December 2008

Two Poems by Christine Potter


Passing the Wildfire

(Montana, August 2007)

After driving past the hundred hills
of Western Pennsylvania, sky blue
and still as a dry swimming pool—
after the Great Plains in their weary

glare, our car a little sun, glinting
in motel parking lots late afternoons
and at dawn—after all that, smoke
and cold water in a stainless steel sink

at the rest stop an hour east of Missoula.
I splash my face, run wet fingers through
my hair.  Breath catches in my throat
like soup, oversalted and boiled almost

to nothing.  A couple on a motorcycle
masks their faces with damp towels.
It’s news on local radio, but only human
interest: stalwart joggers in the haze,

children at the park anyway, this state’s
late summer.  Brown clouds like dried blood,
an in-law on the cell phone: really last week’s
heat was worse than this. Just past town,

half-smothered coals like orange stars
in black grass that just brushes the edge
of the road.  Then we’re past it, and almost
all the way West. I won’t smell fire again

until tonight, when I pull today’s shirt
over my head, sitting on a cool white bed
at considerable altitude, dizzy from it
but grateful for this twilight’s clarity.

At the windows, half lost in shadow,
six-story cedars flap their shaggy branches
like slow wings getting ready to land,
calmly descending, circling into night.

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