Two Poems by Christine Potter

Passing the Wildfire

(Montana, August 2007)

After driving past the hundred hills
of Western Pennsylvania, sky blue
and still as a dry swimming pool—
after the Great Plains in their weary

glare, our car a little sun, glinting
in motel parking lots late afternoons
and at dawn—after all that, smoke
and cold water in a stainless steel sink

at the rest stop an hour east of Missoula.
I splash my face, run wet fingers through
my hair.  Breath catches in my throat
like soup, oversalted and boiled almost

to nothing.  A couple on a motorcycle
masks their faces with damp towels.
It’s news on local radio, but only human
interest: stalwart joggers in the haze,

children at the park anyway, this state’s
late summer.  Brown clouds like dried blood,
an in-law on the cell phone: really last week’s
heat was worse than this. Just past town,

half-smothered coals like orange stars
in black grass that just brushes the edge
of the road.  Then we’re past it, and almost
all the way West. I won’t smell fire again

until tonight, when I pull today’s shirt
over my head, sitting on a cool white bed
at considerable altitude, dizzy from it
but grateful for this twilight’s clarity.

At the windows, half lost in shadow,
six-story cedars flap their shaggy branches
like slow wings getting ready to land,
calmly descending, circling into night.

April 1st, Route 43, Massachusetts

Mustard-colored colonial houses
set in long, flat, dormant fields, also
mustard-colored. Near a pond milky
with snow melt, the last clump of snow,
haloed in fog. It is sixty-five degrees,

and some other houses here are old
but were never beautiful. This one
is colorless except for the Fourth of July
bunting and Christmas candy canes lining
its front porch. Even the sky seems

drained, but the wind is picking up and
you and I are almost where we’d planned
to be at day’s end. Thunder’s in the forecast—
no joke. And just now, something is
turning over in its den, ready to awaken

About the author

Christine Potter has gone back and forth across the US without an airplane more times than she can say. She's flown, too, but lately…

Read the full bio

Issue 02 · December 2008

Table of contents