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Maya Khosla


Sun on grass exhales the downpour of seconds ago. Coyote comes trotting through the steam, across the field alive with glitter. Unrushed, carving a wide arc around necessity. Eyes and belly keen. Now stops, quick-sinking to a crouch. Ears forward, picking up a scratchy fidgeting. The gopher’s whole body—mouth, nose, eyes—shoveling dirt from its shallow cave. Coyote grows tense. The fudge-brown body surfaces. Jaws clamp down, toss. The prey stands toothy and defiant, ready to fight. Coyote whines. Lunges and grips it again, tenderly, as if tweaking an error. Another toss and recapture, a third, a fourth. Behind them the orchestra of greens is fading. Now the gopher falls without defiance or teeth, no more than a floppy toy, lost atop its maze of tunnels. The fur will turn into soil; the soil will surge up as grass. The sound of crunching is so faint it could be the wind itself, crackling and snapping.

Blue Oak

A meadow ends where all the perpendiculars   of a leafy brown river throw themselves up towards blue.   The fruits are olive and ocher. Sprays of dark leaves   shiver and splash with sun. Lightning scars show where   the main, once shaped by flames, was not lost but reduced   to fine fists, oak tissue under sheets of earth, sleeping   through the storm and teeth of quick-heat. Here it is: the world   utterly lovely despite the anguish, despite endless battles.   Meanwhile, you have slipped away to yours. My phone is still   again. I could call back. I could babble about this testimony   to resilience, bent limbs and great elbows of trunk leaning against granite in gestures of pondering and reconciliation.   I could share the looping and fluttering of flycatchers,   grasses fresh  with  fog-drip  and  shade, pressed flat where a fox recently turned doglike circles round and round   before settling in. I could hold up my phone among the workings of xylem and phloem so you could hear the rustling, the liquid flow scooping minutes   out of the heart’s rocky sloping, terrain and flowing on as only a river can. Or I could stand still   and listen.

Diablo Winds

Fire is a very powerful force of nature that’s been here for millions of years. Will be here for millions more.

—Tim Ingalsbee

We woke to shrill voices and smoke.

Winds letting go; messages flying far.

A pine-and-cedar incense of imminence

wrapping the stars. Santa Ana, Diablo, Fohn.

Pages flapping. Nothing to hold the books,

the photos, the shared cups of tea, to the moment.

Rooms loosened from meaning. Walls

turning into paper in the hands of chance.

Anything, anything, grabbed without thought.

The mind a leaf spinning. The prayers caught

in our throats for months. One for shelter,

one for first responders knocking on doors,

one for the lost, one for fighters who drove

past flames. One for the hills rimmed with a rolling

brightness, for history to make us wise about lands

that have always returned after fire. For time, for time.

For the surprises tiptoeing in, unannounced, just weeks

after the flames. One for rain and the rise of suncup,

biscuitroot, toadflax and whispering bells.

For the plentiful flaring open, petals upon ash,

songbirds upon branches of charcoal,

black bear upon berries of abundance, fresh juices

trickling down the corners of her mouth.

Maya Khosla’s brand new Sixteen Rivers Press poetry book, to be released this March, is All the Fires of Wind and Light; the poems here appear in the new collection. Her first book, Keel Bone, won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press. The current Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, she is also a wildlife biologist and a filmmaker. Her recent film is Searching for the Gold Spot: The Wild After the Wildfire. Her film and fieldwork show that the natural environment, if left undisturbed, can recover from even the most devastating fires, especially in northern California, and her poetry is often inspired by her research.

— posted March 2019

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