Al Young title



from KQED-FM San Francisco

Courtesy Bureau of Land Management


The scents of summer, once so moist and vast,
now scorch your nose. O how your pricked eyes water!
This fire’s going to last and last and last
until your in-laws, wife, two sons and daughter
collapse among the Pepsis, Cokes and chips.
The makeshift rescue center, where you’ve learned
some distant neighbors’ names from their own lips,
fills still with losers just like you. Hurt. Burnt.

 A dry La Niña winter, snow-melt, drought
(July: Colfax, June: Colorado Springs,
New Mexico) let heated winds strike out
across your parchment landscape with a zing
that flared up like a sulphurous safety match.
But here’s the catch: Can this mean climate change
is real? Do savvy Californians watch
what happened back in 2009, the range
of wildfires: Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
(their so-called Lockheed Fire), the Station Fire
near L.A.? Half a million square miles. News.
You sweat. Your wife and family, they perspire.

Août, août, août, août! – August, moaned in French,
needs no translation. You can smell and feel
the fall and peel of summer. Inch by inch
you sink into this smoky state. You reel.
You suddenly realize what really counts:
You’re still alive. Don’t underestimate
again how unseen danger creeps and mounts.

Ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo – August stops you at its gate!

— Al Young
© 2012



‘The California Report’ Poems 2012


2 Responses to “ONE AUGUST SUMMARY | A Poem by Al Young”

  1. suezenne Says:

    Simply Beautiful!!!

  2. Al Says:

    Thank you, thank you, Suezenne. The poem was inspired by the drift of smoke and particulates from nearby wildfires that clogged my nose and peppered my eyes last month while I was working up in the Sierras near Tahoe. The way the lines and sounds emerged still shocks and thrills me, too.

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