Smoke Haibun

Alyssa Ogi

If I am to believe the sudden gulls, a thunderstorm marches from the north: floods, closed roads forecasted–but back home, Santa Ana winds spark drought-thin orchards to fire, and my mother waits among her citrus trees. Only reflected smoke that can’t collect humidity, the hills are dyed bright, as orange is bright. She covers branches with wet towels, the skin along her thumbs cracking in heat. An acre from her house, everything burns like a hot day in Watts, fifty years before, when a flamed wake inched to her childhood apartment. Perhaps my mother smells lemon as if it were gun residue, or the demarcation line of “no Blacks, no Chinks can live on this block.” When I was young, she would run damp hands through my hair to smooth unruly curls. Now, the news refuses to predict my storm’s arrival, or the last day to worry for her safety. How can I send these clouds to her, the tin of contained rain I keep on a faraway roof? A creek of fire rolls its wide spine down the valley and she calls after their street is evacuated to describe the sky, bright out her window:

Seeing gold, I forget our distance. I only know what’s coming.

Alyssa Ogi is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has been supported with an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and an Oregon Literary Fellowship, and can be found in Best New Poets, Poetry Northwest, and other journals.