From the salt marsh
a second twilight was raised
orange and pomegranate
over the neighborhood.
At the window—fireflies!
My daughter ran to catch them
in a pickle jar. They fell
yellow and pink, blinking at the lip
of the glass and fading inside.
She giggled and spun and lifted up
the jar like her own personal moon.
But when she turned back,
her face and hands were pocked,
her blue dress streaked with gray.
Not fireflies at all but ash
from a burning wildfire
some miles away. Our neighbor
stood out beside the ceramic donkey
in his front yard, watering his own roof
under the white grin of a surgical mask.
His spray, caught in the wind, arched
over us, dusting our bare heads
while my daughter cried for
the daylight dying in her arms.
Daniel E. Pritchard:
There’s always a danger of voyeurism in writing about issues like climate change or war, those kinds of world-historical themes or events. The writing can become so abstracted or distant that it no longer implicates the reader. It’s over there, it’s someone else. It makes you think “God, how terrible”—which it is, and that kind of work is can be evocative, inspiring—we aren’t asked to explore the personal experiences that comprise these history book headings. Sometimes that is totally appropriate, but it’s also an easy trap. We are primed for that distanced perspective by every type of media today. In this poem, I wanted more intimacy. I wanted it to move within the experience of recognition and position the reader to feel the stakes of this within their own lives, almost as if it were their own memory. That sounds grandiose, and trying is not succeeding. But that was my hope for this poem.