California Dreamin’

DeeSoul Carson

I could see it all from that room:

the fog-capped mountains piercing

the midnight blue, out where the dish

points up like the ground’s silver thumb,

the evening’s blinking red eye. I can’t

remember if it was before or after

the wildfires, the night the sky was so full

of crows, it was as if they had been summoned

by our sorrow. If you live in California

long enough, everything is before

or after a fire, everything bordering

phosphorous. Some days I woke

to the Bay burning and it was just

another Wednesday. That fall

I watched the sky choke sienna

and all I could do was log into class.

This June, a coast away, smoke

comes from the north and everyone I love

is asking how I’m handling the air’s ocher coat

– all I can say is it's fine. What do you want

from me? It’s all so familiar, the ash

staining our clothes and peppering my hair.

Everything is burning and people want to know

how I’m handling it. I’m not. I want to help

but I have tuition to pay. I’m doing what I can.

I’m blowing out my candles before bed.

I’m tucking my matches where I’ll forget

they exist. I’m asking God for a storm

that will shatter the sky into submission,

the clouds huddled into one gray,

ethereal mass, a ghostly wall rolling

inland to swallow our stupor. Thunder

so strong I feel it in the pit of my chest,

every car alarm for miles, wailing.

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