“Pyrophyte: Any plant that is resistant to fire,
or that needs fire to propagate.”—Wiktionary

This morning I’m breathing smoke
from forest fires two thousand miles away
and the people who died in those fires
are aloft in this air, their ashes

livid from betrayal. I can taste them,
their longing to back up time
like an old pickup truck
to a point when rain still loved them.

They are understandably furious that
the nature they tamed did not hold the fire
inside their shovels and hoses. Maybe nature
was just too stupid to pay further attention

to their directions. Or perhaps this time,
it chose to favor the pyrophytes that,
beneath the ash, are waking and stretching,
ready to flourish where the bodies fell.

About the Poem

We in Ohio have been breathing in the smoke from forest fires in the North American Northwest for weeks now.

About the Author

Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories, and novels whose work has appeared in journals including PlainSongs, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, Aji, The New York Quarterly, The Remington Review, Aurora Review,  Best American Mystery Stories, and many more. See more at

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