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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Wildfire’s Song/ Day 47; Seasons of Forgiveness

By: Dick Altman

Wildfire’s Song/ Day 47

Northern New Mexico

If a month-and-a-half of smoke could speak –

it would sing to me of a million trees lost –

how each survived years of high winds

and drought -- how each watched prairie

turn into ranch – farm – and pastureland

how each witnessed generations of children

and herds grow up together on the range

how each recalled the laughter – the lowing

of cows – wakes of passing – each era’s trucks

rusting in a distant field – how each recoiled

as gusts turned a burn manmade into an untamed

firestorm – how each went in seconds from life

to crackling death – how each’s high plains saga

of the sage swirled skyward in a cloud of ash

how each’s refrain rose – until losing breath –

and salted the earth with its lyric dust – how

each stalks my spirit – as I walk at twilight –

with charred voices of silence

Seasons of Forgiveness

Winter forgot you – spring never arrived

until July – high desert’s monsoon flooded you –

tides of ash poisoned you – yet you forgave –

without recompense – and brought back

to life earth – wherever I looked – beyond

anything in memory – you bloomed – aspen

soared – Russian sage purpled wall and walk –

Chamisa’s golden baguettes – like diamonds –

sang in the sun – you were happier than

I recall in years –


I could tell you weren’t eager for summer

to end – you would wake late – clouds

over the horizon waiting for you to set

the sky in motion – and when you did –

nimbus took on the aspect of monuments –

islands of civilization – you loved how

winds scattered them like a fallen deck

of cards – turbulence’s tectonic flows

clawing – clashing – climbing over

one another – igniting rages of sound

and light –


I hear you – in aspen’s nighttime surf –

whisper in dreams – hear you in coyotes’

ululations – tarantula’s torpid silence

after mating – feel you letting go –

greens – almost overnight – dying back

into shades of tired wheat – sage blossoms

falling like tears of rice – rain tree’s

lanterns glowing more copper than gold –


I hear – at a distance – geometries of geese

emerge – amaze how you choreograph

their burst from autumn’s clouds – turn

their music into songs of possibility – spring’s

rare desert bloom to come – feasting

on winter’s howling riches – summer’s rebirth

of flameless grace – after this year’s searing –

manmade hell – and I feel your forgiveness

ebb – without fanfare – into precarious serenity


Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Cathexis, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, New Verse News, Sky Island Journal and others here and abroad. A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems. His work has been selected for the forthcoming first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry, to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.

(Wildfire’s Song/ Day 47) "Our historic Hermit’s Peak Fire occurred just miles from where I live on the high desert plains of northern New Mexico. Centuries-old forests literally went up in smoke in hours, for weeks on end. Somewhere along the way, I saw not only smoke, but imagined all the stories the trees held within their rings rising skyward as well. Out of that image arose Wildfire’s Song, Day 47. This is, after all, the Old West, of homes and lives and ranches on the range. Trees have witnessed it all. Who better to tell the story than those, to paraphrase Milton, who only stand and watch?"

(Seasons of Forgiveness) "It's been a biblical year out here at 7,000 feet on New Mexico's high desert plain--drought, fire and flood--and then a miraculous turnaround. I wanted to write, in a personal way, about a force--

call it natural or spiritual--omnipresent but not omnipotent, victim and benefactor, that played an undefined role in everything that happened. I found myself referring to this nameless force as "you". I could see, hear and feel "you", everywhere I turned. Out of tragedy and catastrophe came, or so it seemed on a metaphorical level, "your" forgiveness. The poem brims with images of vernal resurrection--and then autumnal ebb. Somehow "you" have returned balance and harmony to the land. A radiance about the future--for the moment."


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