After the Fires

US-WILDFIRES-CALIFORNIA
Who am I to voice your grief?
I who lost nothing in the fires but sleep,
eight days of work.
You were left without a home.

Four bedrooms, two baths, the kitchen
you remodeled with cherry cabinets
and black granite counters.
It was like being in a jewelry box, you said.

There was your grandfather’s writing desk,
with its curved legs and tiny hidden drawers.
The long dining room table,
born from trees in Finland.
I could never resist running my hand
over its smooth hollows.

Paintings, small sculptures, photos from your travels.
That leopard in the tree, a red sun behind him.
You won an award for that.

The mantle!
That gorgeous mantle your daughter carved.
A year of her life went into it.

Gone. Everything.
Not just burned up—swallowed, mangled,
the fire an immense maw,
roaring down the mountain
faster than a man could run.

They had to paint street names on what was left
so that people could find where their homes had been.

You begin.
First a roof, then the rest: food, plates, cups, clothes, soap.
Your needs are savage, you see that now.
You cannot live on art, books, a priceless mantle,
though a part of you still knows they matter.

What shall I buy you?
A coat? A set of dishes? A Safeway giftcard?
Or something else,
some beautiful useless thing
you will turn to again and again.