‘Camp Fire,’ A Poem by sam sax

"how unusual for this place without water to be now drowned in it."

after the fires come rain
& in the time between
one devastation & another
we delight in the normal
pleasures of a sky weeping
like an adolescent
in a multiplex parking lot—
how unusual for this place
without water to be now
drowned in it, people lift
their heads—tree farms
drinking at the gray tap.
it hasn’t rained since i moved
back & i know after this
comes the mudslides from
the ruined hillsides
& later—wild blooms
of near devastating beauty
which too will die & dry
into food for a new fire
even more terrifying than
the last—where our breathing
masks will laugh at our
efforts to respire here.
& still despite its portent
the rain this morning
is lovely. the sound of it
outside my window
does what it did as a child—
permissions us to stay in
or go out & be wetted along
with everyone who lives
here, who too exists in this
circumstance of weather,
who breathes in the wet
sidewalk. i watch the trees
drink & glisten like old
drag queens—read
an article from my father
on the hatred of jews
in europe. violence & fire
on the rise & on the horizon.
i read the article & then
read the article again
this time only for the names
of cities where statues are
cut from marble into
the shape of men so beautiful
& soft you can’t help
but fall in love. the stone
breathing & hot & when wet
almost dancing. 


The preceding is from the Freeman’s channel at Literary Hub, which features excerpts from the print editions of Freeman’s, along with supplementary writing from contributors past, present and future. The upcoming issue of Freeman’s, a collection of writings on California, featuring work by Tommy Orange, Rabih Alameddine, Rachel Kushner, Mai Der Vang, Reyna Grande, and more, is available in October.

sam sax
sam sax
sam sax is a queer, jewish poet & educator. He's the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017) winner of The National Poetry Series and ‘Bury It’ (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony. He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion, winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, The Iowa Review Award, & American Literary Award. His poems have appeared in BuzzFeed, The New York Times, The Nation, Poetry Magazine + other journals. He’s the poetry editor at BOAAT Press & will be a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University this Fall.

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