Poetry: "Before the Fire-Scarred Land"

by Christopher Raley Oracle speaks in the living room while wind beats huddled houses with her fury. Thelonious: Again now tell us of peace you find in misery’s laughter, humiliation’s pride.

But can you speak beauty as bare-skin light of dawn unveils valley parchment its smear of sight? Or is yours only for laughter at the south road shining its golden rush between winter fields brown and fallow?

The river has a mischief too, its course slowly to bend and upset orchards carefully squared. Far hills like wrinkled canvass spread their jest below blue silk torn of edge and splotched by the white hand.

Are there any here you can voice through the urban angles of your ironic malice? The oracle has no need but a faint breath of harmony. For he too will rise east—and the fire-scarred land

where pines stretch charred bones for no song or shade, and manzanita are the frozen black frenzy of muttering old women who’ve only themselves left to hate.