Journal of Writing & Environment

By July we are underwater,

wearing tall rubber boots or barefoot

with blue jeans rolled over our knees.

The grass and thistles pressed flat,

smoothed beneath flowing clear planes

that have jumped the ditch banks.


August: we are dry.

My father piles dead branches

and debris, makes a ring of bonfires

encircling each field.


He wears a broad-brimmed hat

of woven straw, sloshes diesel

the color of shiraz from a gas can.

I strike the match

in a burst of sulfur,

throw it and leap backwards.

There is a sound like the opening

of a parachute, fabric gone

from slack to bursting in an instant,

then flames, tall as my shoulder.


Next he burns the ditches,

right down the gullets,

fire to clear the way

for next year’s flood.