excerpts from BURN
THESE are dangerous days.
There are fires in the streets. Everything is burning. No water. No rescue. I
can’t see to see. Smoke plumes, beautiful in the morning light, all the land of
the landscape misshapen, I give up my breath, I give up my sight, I give up
the running, I give up everything, everything gone, everything stolen, all is
sacrificed to the fire fuming forward.
The world disappears and it is the second day this has happened.
This is no apocalypse tale.
This is a story about fire.
This is a story about what I know about fire.
This is a story about what the fire taught me.
When I wake there is the faint scent of smoke in my hair, in the sheets. It’s a
sticky film that grays the windows and walls. It’s almost as if I need to swim
to the surface for air. I try to breathe shallowly, as if that will help. As if that
will make any difference. All it does is make me feel like I’m going to pass
Last night, when the rain came, it seemed like things were going to go back
to normal. Wake, eat, work, eat, read, eat, sleep, etc.
One thing I have learned from the fire is that it takes things away.
How to push through the slog of unknowing? How to sweep up the soot, the
grey ash that melts into my skin, nothing will be clean again, it seems, no air
will come through the trees cool and damp and with the scent of violets, of
green. Not now anyway. Not today.
At daybreak there is the promise of change. That is, there is the possibility
for it. In this bright and breaking point, all mistakes are forgiven. Everything
is new. A fresh start, as they say. And with the sun climbing and bright, the
air clean and crisp, the day is spread out before me like a banquet. Every
single thing is possible. Even things that aren’t. If I could simply apply this
attitude to the rest of the day. But it’s a magic spell. It doesn’t last forever.
Though it does come back and back and back and back. The return is what is
Between the years, between nothing and nothing, this is what I have learned.
The beginning is always the best part. Before anything else happens.
I’ve also learned this:
There is always a fire somewhere.
Sara Veglahn is the author of The Mayflies, forthcoming from Dzanc Books in April. She lives and writes in Denver.