We drove along the edge of the burn line, right down to the Columbia River, 70 mph with the windows rolled up. One month and 50 percent-contained, the air tasted like char and the sea. Saw where fire fell upwards and cascaded into wind, jumped the tracks, crossed the river. So much green. Cottonwoods used the updraft to their advantage and survived: Blown back by heat, how far they had to bend, tannin and silver flags of resistance. We knew this road and twists, but not the rock suddenly bare, blocked from falling by cargo-containers and metal nets. Imagine our foreheads un-creased, knowing each other without the torque of time’s speed and the signs of slide every yellow mile-marker. And below, where oil tankers peel through and cigarettes ditch themselves, how small ferns become relieved to be sprung, because of the firestorm.
Kristin Berger is the author of the poetry collection How Light Reaches Us (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a poetry chapbook, For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008). Her long prose-poem, Changing Woman & Changing Man: A High Desert Myth, was a finalist for the 2016 Newfound Prose Prize. Her most recent work has been published in Contrary Magazine, The Inflectionist Review, Timberline Review and forthcoming from Four Chambers Press, Light Journal and Plum Tree Tavern. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she hosts a summer poetry reading series at her neighborhood farmers market. More at www.kristinberger.me.