70, 868 Acres

by

Jill Bergantz Carley

On the asphalt at the turnaround, we wrote in chalk, in the largest letters:
Two homes, flume access
Water resources 16,500 gallon pool
Fire hose bibs at corners of house
Three 1000 gallon tanks drawn from well

When it may all burn down to the ground, let us pack–
The Diebenkorn, the Thiebaud lithograph, wrapped in Granna’s quilt no
every quilt: pushed hurriedly into the trunk of the car; the quilts: bring them all.
The scale model you made of the house, this perfect replica held in two hands
A box of handwritten recipes
A pair of slippers
Your favorite glasses
The laundry folded neatly on top of the dryer
And please, please, from our family home, save this one thing for me: a picture
of the sky
on the day I was born.

a firebreak sixteen dozer blades wide; the simmering hills we watched that night from the
highway
And from the charred earth, once corduroy grass, once chaparral, once deodora cedars, once live
oak,
this dark reliquary of gems, silica turned to glass–

But listen, listen: it isn’t the fire that’s the matter–
after, driving behind a bulldozer on a flatbed truck you cry so hard that you have to pull over
when at night, in the sleep you can manage, the dream flames are so close, so close that you find
yourself awake, your lover holding your head in his hands
it’s alright
it’s alright
it’s alright

Listen: the hard ring of the bell calling all the volunteer firemen to work, so quick;
And you, watching from the grocery store parking lot as they stream toward the station
It’ll take you a good hour to calm down enough to buy the apples, the carton of milk–

Listen: a siren echoes
Listen: a plane flies low overhead, and you,
you can’t hold them at arm’s length–
the toyon by the kitchen window, it has to go
the bull pine over the deck, cut it down;
the black oak you prized so much, take it–
the bleached gold white grasses of summer, deracinated

Listen: take the dog for a walk,
anything better than the stillness in your kitchen as you push the forest away with both your
hands–
just walk with her,
walk, ash falls, a darker storm, walk: cling to her soft white paws


Jill Bergantz Carley makes her home in Calaveras County, California, where lives a half mile from the stoplight in a sweet town five blocks long. A Pushcart Prize nominee; her poetry is forthcoming from OPOSSUM, ENTROPY, Silver Needle Press, Collective Unrest, and elsewhere. Her poem, ‘Stereoscope: Pioneer Cabin Tree,’ won the RAR 2018 Walt Whitman Prize; she was recently named as a semi-finalist for The Hellebore Scholarship. Her conceptual textile sculpture has been shown in the bG Gallery, CTRL Collective, the deYoung Museum, and has appeared in ARTWEEK. Her day job in engineering keeps her out of trouble. She tweets @jbergantzcarley & posts words & pictures on Instagram @jillbergantzcarley.

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