not only humans desired liberation, the whole ecology demanded it.
texas was underwater, florida had been evacuated, and the eagle creek blaze—started by fireworks in September of the hottest Summer on record—filled the skies for hundreds of miles with the forest’s ashes.
ashes gathered out of the skies onto things. out of places of all kinds—out cracks on the old porch slab, out of bowls of rose petals, out of stacks of porcelain and plaster—ash looks gloomily and quakes in the smoky summer breeze. on the potter’s wheel. on the sage and on all the sunflowers and on the tomatoes and squash and peppermint. ash dangled in the spider webs like chandeliers. covered in gray and black ash, leaves look like tombstones.
no trains, and it’s too early for race cars.
we hear a big plane in the red smoke somewhere and the tin of our porch roof shudders.
through her mask she says, “it looks like the world is on fire.”
i tighten my mask and squint.
the air is thick with smoke and the smoke is red with the rising sun—a molten fuzz in the nebulous heavens.
when the air is better, we take the dog under the st. john’s bridge to the boat ramp by the artist commune and throw his orange rubber balls into the willamette. he wears a bright yellow personal floatation device with a handle for water rescue. sometimes we have to share the ramp with boats and trucks and trailers, and if it gets bad we go home because the boats leak gasoline.
when we’re off the wagon, we stop at the Beer Porch on the way home and sit by the firepit or at one of the open-air green picnic tables and drink Irish Water and eat fries and falafels. we saw a jug band there with a washboard player in it once, and we talk about that sometimes.
evenings, we gravitate to the yoga room and turn on a light that’s inside a rock of crystal salt, and it glows softly and ionizes the air naturally. we put some essential oils in a mist machine and plug it in and it babbles like a dollhouse creek.
on the wall in laundry marker she has written:
working title –
i ask her when the spider said this and whether the spider was talking to a bird.
she says, “i don’t think so. i think it was talking to that wasp.”
mention of the wasp makes me shiver.
when i go home, there are strange people in the Kitna house. i ask my mother about it, and she talks about them as though they are her new neighbors, and she says the man Kitna is dead and the woman Kitna is in a home somewhere. the boy Kitna died, of course, long ago. these new neighbors are young. they have kids and a dog, and my mother knows all of their names and says the dog comes over sometimes for treats.
that evening, after coming home from my sister’s and getting out of the car, i look in the dim light at the Kitna house, and i think that it’s not really the Kitna house anyway, because the real Kitna house burned down decades ago.
i'd woken up in bed to my father yelling by my door to someone on the phone. he was yelling, “you can’t miss it! the flames are twenty feet in the air!”
i got up and opened my bedroom door and saw my father running away through the dark rooms gnashed by red light. the red came through the windows. out the window of the front room i saw the Kitna house ablaze. the garage door melted away and the black sedan in the garage was engulfed.
just outside the garage my mother was arcing back and forth, shouting, “fire! fire! are you in there!? fire! fire!”
i ran out and jumped down the steps and yelled at my mother, “lookout! get the fuck out! that car is gonna blow!”
she came towards me. crossing the dark street alone, her back to a wall of flame, she looked perfectly normal.
the moon shone in the sky like a gambler’s last coin.
the car wouldn’t blow.
someone from somewhere on the other side of the great flames, beyond the pulsing wall of unbearable heat, was shouting, “we’re okay! we’re okay!”
my father rushed towards the house with a huge stick and smashed the glass doors in, shouting, “FIRE!”
then he staggered back, shielding his eyes while daring to look, weaponless before the mystery.
i saw a face on the far side of distant space.
i beckoned and called out.
the face turned away and a fog rolled in, and on a horse i galloped alone in an empty meadow on a cold winter morn. i smelled the salty ocean, and in the blasted remains of a thunderstruck tree i saw two crows. one looked sick. the other groomed it softly.
i made for the distance at good speed.
frost and cold dew on the meadow glinting.
a clear-thinking being on a high-speed international train comes to mind.
stray hospital casts and Thanksgiving bones in a doorless red booth by the sea.
a gray beach alas.
a far black mountain pass for tomorrow.
i am feeling like a rock skipping on the warm blue water, rising towards the cold blue sky, falling towards the blue water, falling off the blue water, and rising towards the blue.
it is really late and very dark and i am driving up an unlit winding road on the south hill. ahead a bunch of cars are stopped and some emergency blinkers are on. the big trees on all sides are black. on the roadside stand a small group of people, and they are surrounding a deer that stands with its face bleeding, and they are petting it and looking sad. the deer’s eyes are completely glazed over, like it’s been knocked out.
suddenly, the deer blinks and stumbles fearfully away from the crying people. it weaves drunkenly on buckling legs. it comes weaving in slow motion down the hill, weaving from lane to lane, its neck swaying loosely and its eyes glazed, its face covered in blood and its knees buckling and catching like a puppet’s. for a moment, it looks as though the deer is going to come through my wall of lights and hit me head on. but at the last moment it veers and falls off the side of a hill and into a dark valley.
my father told me that when we die, our atoms separate and spread out.
carrying with them the energy of our lives, they spread out and encounter the energies of other atoms spreading.
death is this spreading of our energies.
i think about this and ask, “so where is bruce lee?”
all around us, by now, says my father.
i wonder at this, looking about me, seeing now for the very first time the possibility of bruce lee in everything.
my father adds, “when you pour a cup of water from the klamath, our local water source, it contains one to five molecules of what used to be bruce lee’s body, and each molecule to this day moves with the energy of bruce lee’s life.”
after that, i sometimes stood at the sink for an hour straight drinking water until my belly ached, waiting, waiting, waiting, drinking more water.