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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

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

—Rainer Maria Rilke, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"

The word’s augapfel
meaning eyeballs or “apple of the eye.”

But we only have the torso of a god here.
Apollo’s abs! Not, the poet writes, his

“unknowable

poem
                                       ... reverberation
                              Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
                              He who was living is now dead
                              We who were living are now dying
                              With a little patience.