This road—a guitar string—first slack, tunes
to a straight line, and its thrumming palsies
my pick-up. To the West, the ridges burn,
smoke slides down the mountainside
with the dusk and settles in the valley
below where workers clear-cut
the shoulder, scraping back a layer
of grass and evening primrose
the same way my sister peels her beauty
masks. In my family, we women
have a fuzzier face than most: a vestige
of our German side. Soft, thin, fine,
in the right light it catches and glows
like Hawkin’s Les Aureols. So too, this fire
slashing through back-lit trunks
and drought-stained pine boughs
has the corona effect. And here,
between flora and flame, my grandfather’s
words return: If you don’t burn away
the underbrush from time to time,
the whole place chokes and dies.



H.m. Cotton