September/October 2013 issue | See all poetryFrom the
There is no wind. The chaparral has gone
to decadence. And the sun, at such a height,
leaves the sky desiccated, bleached ash-white.
A concentrated brightness, an indrawn
gathering of the light, as if the whole
world were enclosed within a camera
obscura, an inverted replica
universe cynosured through a pinhole.
Even the soil is aching from the heat;
a cracking bed of serpentine where few
species contrive to grow, and those that do
sustain themselves on nothing but complete
famine and drought. More than sustain: they flout
the whole system, responding to the mean
conditions with a kind of libertine
excess, oiling themselves elaborately, without
a care for consequence. Inviting fire.
Anointing their dry leaves with aromatic
resins just to inspire a dramatic
response. Spontaneous combustion. Dire
consequences, but they’ve thought of that
too, developing at once two kinds of seed:
one sprouts in wet soil. One is only freed
if the achene is scorched. This habitat
requires certain adaptations. And
rather than being meager in return
for meagerness, why not agree to burn?
Say there is nothing you cannot withstand.