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Sarah Kay reads Forest Fires, a poem she wrote for her grandmother and dad.

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Sarah Kay:
https://twitter.com/kaysarahsera
https://kaysarahsera.com/

Poem:
Forest Fires by Sarah Kay
From No Matter the Wreckage: https://writebloody.com/products/no-matter-the-wreckage
Write Bloody Publishing

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Hi I'm Sarah Kay and this is my poem Forest Fires.

I wrote this poem for my grandmother and my dad.

Forest Fires

I arrive home from JFK in the rosy hours
to find a new 5-in-1 egg slicer and dicer
on our dining room table.  
This is how my father deals with grief.  

Three days ago, I was in the Santa Cruz
Redwoods tracing a mountain road 
in the back of a pickup truck, watching
clouds unravel into spider webs.  

Two days from now, there will be 
forest fires, so thick, they will have to 
evacuate Santa Cruz.  The flames will paint
the evening news a different shade of orange,

and when it happens, I will be in New York City
watching something else on TV.  Commercials,
probably, which is all that seems to play
on hospital television sets: the beeping

from the nurses' station mixing with sales jingles--
the theme song for the ailing.  My grandmother's tiny body 
is a sinking ship on white sheets.  I hold her hand
and try to remember open highways.

It really goes to show that it doesn't take
much with these dry conditions to start a fire,
a Cal Fire spokesman will tell CNN on Sunday.  
Fire officials have been working tirelessly, but

controlling something this big is impossible.
My mother will point at the celluloid flames,
remind me how lucky I am, how close I had been,
how narrowly I missed this disaster.  My father

will point out a commercial for the Brown & Crisp,
repeat line by line how it bakes, broils, steams,
fries, and barbeques.  
He will write down 
the number to order it later.

Three days ago, I was barefoot.  Balancing
on train tracks, the full moon an unexpected visitor,
the smoke-free air as clean and sharp 
as these city lungs could stand.

Two days from now I will find my father
making egg salad in the kitchen, exhausted
after an all-night shift at the hospital.  I will
ask if he needs help and understand

when he says no.  I will leave him to slice
and dice the things he can.  My grandmother
folds her hands on mine and strokes
my knuckles like they are a wild animal she is

trying to tame.  She tells me I am gorgeous,
watches a commercial, forgets my name,
tells me I am gorgeous again.
My father watches from the bedside chair,

his mother and daughter strung together 
with tightrope hands, fingers that look 
like his own.  And somewhere in California
a place I once stood is burning.