Wildfire Remembered

‘Wildfire’ here means lightning without audible thunder

Wildfire over the mountain-chain at night
measured the river plains, the estuary mouth,
the silence and the brilliance of stars,
the distant moon that frightened me with bright
detachment, and the dark pine trees beside
our watchful windows. Then I thought of truth,
believing at that time I’d know it was
the truth, before I lost the hope it would
be there for me; an ant, a grain of sand,
a momentary fit of life that could
not possibly accommodate its size.
I now no longer care to understand.


Distance became electric in the dark,
velveted by a river’s onward rush,
pouring past boulders to the ocean roar,
endlessly reunited in a shock.
Water in congress, driven by the moon,
dragged and returned beneath pale lunar-wash,
ruled by whatever system kept the score.
Far in the mountains, where the stream began,
keäs and boobooks lived their private lives.
Paths, gashed by wind and rain, blanched in the storm,
floodlit by ground-light brighter than the day,
flashing a noiseless warning for our eyes.


Close by the sea no storm disturbed our air;
rats in the rocks ran through the seaweed strewn
over the tidal wetness — night-rats, they
vanished in daylight. Not a rodent there
waited for dogs and herons. Cats prowled,wild
under the florin moon. Each creature grown
huge in the moonlight — predator and prey
able to haul away a human child.
Soft in the morning cats regained their form,
mewing for milk, claws sheathed, their anger stilled.
Snow on the mountain-chain winked white at blue.
Nature had shown the storm before the calm.

Keä — pronounced keeah — is a New Zealand alpine parrot; boobook is a New Zealand owl also called morepork; florin is a large silver coin.

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