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Though the Earth's brow is marked by ashes

This is not Ash Wednesday

Because I do not hope to return again

Neither by poem nor presence

I do not hope to return to see the sun

Burning the sky, deep pink, heliotrope

(The trope of Icarian wings in conflagration)

Darkening to an amber glow

As the churning winds embed the smoky clouds

With a disarray of splintered embers,

Swept up from the narrow canyons:

Wing, Soda, Sage, Mayacamas

Where its erratic sines, cosines and tangents

Blew past the modest aprons of leafy canopies

That had shielded the gnarled rows of espaliered berries--

Zinfandel, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, the Sauvignons

And descended by whim upon our cities of the plain,

Where a burnt sycamore stump stands like Lot's wife,

A pillar of salt for our wounds: Mercy, Mercy,Mercy!

To this we have come home:

This side of the Petrified Forest, we enjoy a petrified tenancy

Of those who feel hollowed, not hallowed by cinders,

Dust and ashes; no Ash Wednesday

We remember the folks who came knocking, just in time,

The fortuitous berms made by the big Cats and John Deere's,

We remember the volunteers packing berms by shovels.

As time, too, was burning by whim.

No time to contemplate Ecclesiastes. Time?

I do not hope to return again

Until such time when the blessing of the day comes forth

A sui generis blessing that comes to wash the clouds

Of hubris and bad stewardship away

That brings a soothing balance of rain after long drought

That heals the earth with a remembrance of purpose

And brings another Burmese Izzy to us from a budding grove

And we shall not mourn the vanished power of the usual trove.

Bob Austin