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Good Fire, a Poem by Kinsale Hueston for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

11 Oct 2021

good fire 

To take back the land is to poem the de-territorialized we; to poem map (we) as insurgent, unconquered, owed to what is lost, what must be protected, and always what is shared; to harvest without accumulation, again, again.
 – Zaina Alsous

write what you know: I know cicadas

swallowed by smoke. horizon choked by car

exhaust, bitter raincloud. butterfly 

wings, halved by the heat

and highways. lullaby in grasses straining

to hush the uproar from the waterside. I know from

Yurok, Karuk, Hupa, Miwok, Chumash 

relatives: fire licks the carcass 

clean. moss and acorns soothe a blaze’s hungry

belly, whet her all-consuming eyeteeth,

welcome slumber when she is satisfied. beneath the milkweed

root, cactus rot: alkaline kaleidoscope,

world of new bones. each layer of life-giving

a heavy clot ready for bloom. I thumb parched bark

from the pine in my backyard. shed the years

she has thirsted in this drought.

upstate, the Klamath boils away beneath

a muddy sun. suffocated by the lake’s severed

body, suckerfish skim the surface. their stiff enamel

eyes dried up on arroyo

bank. all that remains: deboned 

ecosystem, corpse-black wash

of trees divvied in 1906 to quench greedy

soil, avocado trees, greenery too lush  

for desert-scape. oh, let her burn softly.

let the lake regain her scattered limbs. there is sweetness

in the scorching. gentle unshelling. let those who have known 

this place reach the clear water 

and drink

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