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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 14, 2016.
About this Poem 

“We have had terrible wildfires in late summer here in Southern California. The last one filled the sky with smoke and white ash that fell everywhere and also generated a ‘blood moon,’ a strange red orb that rose at dusk in the altered heavens. My friend Bill Handley and I had been to a gallery opening featuring some wonderful paintings that appeared child-like to me and connected to Bill’s earlier photographing of the blood moon and it all came together in this poem.”
—Carol Muske-Dukes

Wildfire Moon (Summer, L.A. 2016)

for Bill Handley

Pale ash falls from
the sky. On the lanai,
a child finger-paints

a big red sun, twin to
the one that burns
above: mirror on fire.

What does the sun see,
through pages of smoke?
Hills: gargoyles, winged.

The horizon brazen as
the great fool’s gold
jet landing on sparkler

wheels. She catches it:
the revolving star atop
a police cruiser, reflecting

in a flash, the blood moon
coming up at dusk. Printing
her name in what we call

stardust. No one can look
for long into a burning
mirror: faces break up into

bloodshards. Still her small
fingers work ash into a
pink soul-lit version of

a planet unlike ours, its
moon withdrawing into
lit craters. Witness how

she rises, even in this sullen
white downfall, watching over
the indelible realms of touch.

No one else will ever render it so,
a world on fire burning within this
world that her fingers summon tonight,

arriving wildbright and never again.

Copyright © 2016 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Carol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes

Carol Muske-Dukes was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1945. Her poetry collections include Twin Cities (Penguin, 2011) and Sparrow (Random House, 2003), a National Book Award finalist.

by this poet

poem

He rode “no hands,” speeding
headlong down the hill near
our house, his arms extended,
held rigid away from his body,
our small daughter behind him
on the bike in her yellow sunsuit,
bare-headed. She held on to him
for her life. I watched them from
above—helpless failed brake

poem

O the body’s much ballyhoo’d right to be born!
Aligning with her right to shine & die, a star!
They all know her name but not her age
A doctor our daughters shared, opined.

Her name, he said, was failure to
(Thrived onscreen, you’ve seen her.)
My

poem

He glides in on his single wing, after the signs go up. After
the truck leaves with the bunkbeds, grill, broken hall mirror.
After Scout is dropped off at the shelter. After the last look,

on the dying lawn. In the backyard, where the empty pool
stands open; he pops an ollie over the