“To the Firefighters Sleeping in the Yard” by Amy Miller

Amy Miller


Statistically, your mothers know, those hotshot
tragedies hardly ever happen. They worry more
for your lungs, your feet (twenty-six bones
of curled arboreal they once could hold). They worry
what you’re eating (warm burritos wrapped in foil,
handed to you by a shy two-year-old girl) and of course
they dream of horses running, a cat taking refuge
under a car that flashes, boils, melts, they dream
of the strange tornadoes birthing, devouring,
throwing metal and glass, dream of the houses
they raised you in, the thin roofs peeling up,
how the smoke whistles and crackles with its particles
that were everything, everyone it took, how it snows
its flecks of everything, everyone down like night,
like sleep.

Statistically, one grown child looks
much like another, sooty, spent, a war-stained face
turned away. This infuriates mothers, not knowing
if you’re theirs while they scratch at the screen trying
to blow up some twice-removed photo (taken by a man
whose house you saved with your axes that slumber
beside you and a single hose stretched to the limit,
now slack). But any mother (anyone) can recognize
this: the way you curl against the ground while catastrophe
shrieks on, how you (all of us) have to lay down
your weapons just for an hour and sink into that
dark old well of refuge, one hand between your knees.

from Poets Respond
August 7, 2018


Amy Miller: “For the past two weeks, my home in southern Oregon has been surrounded by wildfires and choked with smoke. For us, it’s nothing new; people around here know more about evacuation levels, AQIs, and smoke masks than anyone should have to, and many locals are parents of firefighters. One friend recently told me that she doesn’t worry much about her firefighter son dying by fire—it’s rare, statistically—but she constantly worries about how much smoke he breathes in. When a photo of five firefighters sleeping in a yard went viral a few days ago, symbolizing the massive Carr Fire that tore into the city of Redding, California, two hours south of us, I thought of my friend and her son. And then a video of a little girl handing out burritos to firefighters in neighboring Anderson, a staging area for the Carr Fire, also made the rounds of social media. The older I get and the more I see, the more I get choked up by firefighters and first responders. They’re all someone’s kids out there, working their asses off for us. We can never thank them enough.” (web)

Rattle Logo