By Julie Tate-Libby

a

It was the summer of fire

not one, but many

so many

you thought the whole valley
would burn

gone up together like some of sort of

end-of-the-world rapture.

It was the summer of texts and Facebook and

pack-your-things-oh-my-god-there’s-no-time

get out

get out

get out.

What did we take?

You looked around: a brown sweater,

a pair of shoes, that skirt you never wore,

no, leave that.

The dog, of course, the dog.

You wouldn’t leave the dog, or the cat

but you had to choose.

Time to go.

You stumbled to the car,

you heard someone crying – it was you – but you didn’t recognize the voice

because it was new.

Strange, keening sobs as you gunned the engine and pulled away

leaving the place you thought

your babies would grow up,

bring their first boyfriends,

have that wedding with

candles and sunflowers and
white table cloths.

You left when the Shasta daisies were blooming,

whole hosts of them

glowing like fireflies in the almost-dark.

You wanted to kiss them

bury your face in them

say goodbye to the roses that just opened that morning.

You drove away without looking back

because the fire was ahead of you

blazing away like some kind of freak show, the

whole mountain lit up and shining

trees exploding like bombs.

You drove too fast, reckless, crazy

the firefighters turned away when they saw you because

there was nothing to say.

It felt like the

end

of the world

that summer.

You got drunk on white wine and blueberries,

went swimming in the river,

you dove

down

down

down.

Down there with the fishes

grazing your hands on river rock

slippery with silt

you could forget

the image of your friend’s house burning

incandescent,

like a sunset

burning-flesh

smell of smoke and

scorched earth and

burnt-over landscape.

For a moment you were

just a girl underwater

everything

beautiful

and

perfectly

still.

Julie Tate-Libby lives near Carlton.