Oh sun, tyrant of the summer sky,
I stare with impunity at your orb,
Glowing orange as it dips in the west,
And instead of blinding me as you ought to do,
Instead you look like a light bulb not
Completely able to dispel the smoke
That hangs so ominously in the sky
As I drive off, hungry at the scent
Of burning wood.
O wind, whipping through the valley dark,
I heard you long before I saw your effects.
For as I relaxed and read in my
Quiet room, I heard the sound of rushing
Along the unusually quiet streets,
For though I knew it would be hot today,
I did not realize that with the heat would
Come such a mighty rushing wind.
O smoke, hanging gloomy in the sky,
From which fires do you come?
For a nose that is sensitive as mine
Is to the smell of woods burning bright, which
Knows the smell of a barbeque when it comes
From the wildfires burning somewhere around,
I know the bad tidings that you bring
When you shroud the land in a heavy gloom
As my eyes try to blink out the ashen air.
O night, glowing like a dying blaze,
So thick that it can be curtain-felt,
What is the source of your ominous light?
And what holocausts will your squalls feed,
Eating the wood as ravenously as I
Eat my own meal, and with as little care for
What other concerns that people have
And what tidings should come on a restful day.
Like many residents of the Pacific Northwest, I found myself today somewhat surprised (for I am a bit out of touch when it comes to local news) that the weather today brought stiff winds of gale strength, and when I went off to eat dinner, the characteristic smell of burning firewood and the smoky sky clued me in that there were some terrible wildfires somewhere, terrible enough that when I returned home I made it a point to investigate what was going on to see where these fires came from and how bad they truly were to confirm my suspicions. It is striking how often fire and the results of fire have inspired my own thinking and my own writing. Since childhood I have had perhaps an unfortunate fascination with fire, whether it was the glowing embers in the fireplace or in my maternal grandfather’s homemade pit, or whether it was fire blazing in the swamps during an ominous dry heat, or the fires I happened to see over the course of living and traveling and observing.
The last time I remember writing a scene relating to fire  in poetry, the occasion was driving past the closed Multnomah Falls a couple of years ago–which is closed now, alas for different reasons–as the shoots of life were coming up after a dangerous wildfire that had destroyed much in the area and that was set off by a foolish and reckless young person. In this particular case it does not appear so much that human error is the problem, rather the heat and dryness of the summer and the high winds that are hitting the area have combined to make the Pacific Northwest as a whole a tinderbox, as happens from time to time. Summer is a dry time, not always so dry as it has been, but far more dry than the fall and winter, and the combination of high temperatures and dry forests are a predictable recipe for serious blzes that destroy many acres of forest and threaten homes and businesses in the area.
Characteristically, if someone strangely, I tend to feel more than usually hungry when I am in air that has the smell of nearby wildfires. There are reasons for this. Often the fires themselves smell like barbeque, and that alone is enough to get my stomach juices going and for me to feel more hungry than usual. In general, though, the burning of firewood is associated with me with the firepits that I grew up enjoying from my maternal grandfather’s efforts as well as those of other friends with whom I enjoy eating with and talking with, and so my associations with the burning of wood is generally very positive in nature and moreover one that is frequently connected with food. And apparently it is something that stirs my poetic juices as well as it does my appetite. It is possible those things are connected as well, which would be quite remarkable.