California is burning & already the woods where I first learned to love you have withered

an illustration of blurry fire-y mountains with two people in astronaut suits floating above the charred landscape, connected by a red thread
Art by Kristina Closs

Mt. Diablo

by Jacques J. Rancourt

California is burning & already the woods
where I first learned to love you

have withered, grayed. Last year
when fires rimmed the perimeter

of our city, we followed
in their wake, hiking

the underside of Mt. Diablo,
& what was left by then already

blackened to polish, to mythic ash.
At dusk we took a picture,

but our phones couldn’t register
the lights of our distant city, so we stand smiling

before a black backdrop. A year ago
I barely knew you & now I picture

all the ways I could lose you—
what virions might already be

multiplying in your cells; what truck,
running an intersection, might barrel

over yours; what I might say
if I only had one sentence to say it.

Metaphor will be the first to go.
To walk through the moon’s sea,

I told you on that hike, might look
like this—this burnt mountainside,

this Pompeiian aftermath,
lacquered to veneer. How here

we, like two astronauts, bob.
How here we, like two satans, patrol

the outer ring of hell’s topography.
How I will love you through

prize & peril. Some Scheherazade
I’ve become, some Persephone,

telling you lies, yarn
after yarn, to keep you alive.

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