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.

Then rise when you’re ready from your soul’s hard floor

illustration of a bee on a windowsill
Art by Kristina Closs

BEE ON A SILL 

by Tracy K. Smith (1972-)

Submits to its own weight, 
the bulb of itself too full, 

too weak or too wise
to lift and go. 

And something blunt in me
remembers the old charade 

about putting a thing out 
of its misery. For it? For me? 

Sleep, Bee, deep and easy. 
Hive, heave, give, grieve. 

Then rise when you’re ready
from your soul’s hard floor

to sweet work 
or some war.

What taste the bright world has

illustration of a basket full of blueberries merging into the natural world
Art by Kristina Closs

“Here, There Are Blueberries”

by Mary Szybist

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of

    our fingers.

what taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds

swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.

You must live for something, they say.
People don’t live just to keep on living.

But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.

from Incarnadine