As of this post we hear that over 190 “structures,” principally in Rist Canyon, have burned in the High Park Fire 10 miles West of Fort Collins– now spread to nearly 40,000 acres and 0% contained. Shortly after posting, I learned that one of the mainstays of our “old guard,” Linda Steadman, perished in her cabin. R.I.P. LS….
Requiem for Rist Canyon
It seems that these days
I am often writing about fire—
paraffin, chaff, ash and smoke.
Back draft, carbon, smelting and cinder:
for tonight Rist Canyon and the Roosevelt burn
and it is the conflagration of the ponderosa
and the basalm and the spruce
and the running of the deer,
the high wailing of the horses let loose
to save themselves, the small rodents
weeping their way
into smoldering tunnels of loam.
Smoke makes a scrim of years:
I see my father leaning out of the car,
his face upturned to the Roosevelt’s trees
looking for dwarf mistletoe,
running out of air,
rolling up his canyon maps,
his career as a forest pathologist,
a firefighter in Fort Valley.
I tune in a scanner, and there is static.
I smell the fire in my home
from twenty miles away, its deadly
throbbing heart. I think of the A-frame
where years back we sequestered
politicos on the lam, helping them on
to Canada and where Robert Bly camped
in the old cabin up a rocky path,
a Nordic god among us,
an archangel telling the truth
of napalm and valor,
and again of the children, the horses
and the deer, the dogs, the cats in hiding
while the people run?
Do not reference the unspeakable;
now the flashbacks won’t stop, even though
it’s midnight in the canyon
of our decline, the old guard with our
bone erosion, scarred flesh,
dreams down to embers.
They say this has been coming,
our Armageddon, for years.
You can see it on the aerial maps,
Stove Prairie burns,
Rist Canyon is tinder and I wonder about
Gyorgy Vidacs’above-ground kiva,
if his Navajo rugs are in flames and if
he made it down the mountain in one
of his old beaters; about Baker’s place,
my old history prof, how he defended
the taking of Christmas trees from his land
on horseback, rifle on the pommel:
Pat there living alone, transforming
lichen and needle carpet into gardens;
my philosophy prof’s refuge next door,
my old whiskey-soaked lover’s cabin
in its own perilous valley, path lined
with old canes that belonged to Tomahawk,
a ‘Nam vet, his ashes flung far and wide
during an Apache sing long ago.
And about the old friends who homesteaded
at the Davis Ranch, down that road
in the valley that was paradise, where eagles
felt safe to nest on the bluffs for all the years,
so much history of this place going up,
the exquisite old wooden fences, the early
settler’s cabins, the one room school:
do we need to be purged of the few things
that we permit to radiate consolation
to the tiring soul?
Through the smoke, I see the pig roast
on Sommerfeld’s place in’70
when we danced around flames
that we trusted not to jump the line
while we loved each other
under the pines until morning.
So many years back and the week
we were snowed into the canyon, all of us
in our blue work shirts and bandanas
and long legged jeans,
our dream of common ground,
the collective we in those days;
how we were one for all, all for one
and all in, believing we could reverse
the viciousness of the world
with its flagrant beasts: hunger,
tsunami, the terremoto, the quakes
that open and eat the terrain;
the dictator, the war lord,
the plane without a pilot
gifting a village with death,
the rhetoric of draw-down.
Now some part of me wonders if everything
should not be torched to the ground
in a slash and burn on behalf
of the human soul, so that we are forced
to crawl out of the ashes, half Icarus fallen,
half phoenix rising,
but above all, here, now, out of reprieve
and in a deficit of mercy in the acrid
and billowing midnight, all
has become flame,
great scythes of it, swallowing cabin
on cabin, dream on dream.
Jenne’ R. Andrews June 11, 2012
copyright Jenne’ R. Andrews June 11, 2012 Fort Collins, Colorado