Summer of Hell

It got in my eye
a piece of something.
I blinked. It was sharp and small,
something burned that came in on the smoke
from the wildfires.

My face soaked with tears, I raced into the elevator
Splashing cold water and blinking blinking

The eye got better, but the fires got worse.
We measured by the high rise in the distance,
haze covering it

until it was no longer even there. A telltale sign
that we’d need to keep our windows closed up
and a machine blowing air around in a circle.

They say it purifies, but I come from a world where
fresh air
is from the outside.

That night, sunset was a brown haze
Like a horrible movie or a dream
We watched Maui burn on television, as the air blew around us

in a circle. People ran into the ocean to escape.
It was the summer of Hell
when it all happened
Chaotic, unexpected, predicted and dreaded.

But how do you write a requiem for a planet
still very much alive?
It isn’t a task for the weary, it shouldn’t be]
when what’s needed
are the songs of a hundred finches

up in the poplar
on a good day, an open-up-the-windows day
a walk to the pond and take it all in day
A day just to love this beautiful, shaken earth

that still finds equilibrium, in this moment.

This moment
in the shimmer of leaves
the hummingbird
flits from branch to branch,
a tagalong in that flock of yellow and gray.
It makes no sound amidst
their clatter, their chatter, their music
except the vibration of its wings
as it zips to the horizon, out of sight
yet hovering in the mind’s eye
for many days and nights.

Anne Borden King