Canada in My Lungs Today

She’s thick and hazy,
wood-burnt, hot.
Her red dot sun, an angry eye.
The leafy dress of her flaring,
fanning out in flames, licks
the edge of sky, laps desperate
lakes, stirs dark clouds
in the bowl of her earth.

Thirty years ago, I breathed
in the heavy mist of her falls,
felt the whisper of butterfly wings
in a great windowed conservatory,
slept in a seedy hotel
on a wet and street-lit night,
all star-glared and adventurous.

I was hardly there long enough
to make a memory, but now
on this yellow June afternoon
she is in my lungs, burning,
all cough and chapped,
in the tears of my eyes,
part of the cement of my cells.

About the Poem

More than 8 million acres have burned in Canada this year, half a million in Quebec alone. That smoke was so thick in the atmosphere of upstate NY today many people had breathing issues, coughed all day, and could smell wood smoke everywhere. Our schools canceled all outdoor activities. I can’t imagine living closer. What sadness and fear those people must have. What danger there must be. All day I was struck by the fact that I could smell Canada burning from 264 miles away. That is what spurred this poem.

About the Author

Julene Waffle, a graduate of Hartwick College and Binghamton University, is a teacher, wife, and mother of three boys, two dogs, three cats, and a bearded dragon. She finds pleasure in juggling these jobs while seeming like she has it together. Her work has appeared in The Adroit Journal and The English Journal, among other journals and anthologies, and her chapbook So I Will Remember. Learn more at, Twitter: @JuleneWaffle, and Instagram: @julenewaffle.

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