Poetry Archive: Jonathan Pankratz

Wildfire on Evacuated Reserve

We parked in the last untorched valley
to guard the cluster of houses
surrounded by dead grass.
All night

rez dogs circled us,
their ragged forms slipping
through the hanging smoke
like landbound sharks
until our truck growled back.

A leaky vein of fire
trickled over the hill edge
spilling gold into
the warm black air.

We surge to cap it
falling upwards under waterpacks
as our lungs huff smoke
and muscles turn to kindling.



We are nervous
this roadside restaurant
might be a mirage.

Seventeen days of black
forest, charcoal ruins
and soot flecked breaths
don’t peel off like bark.

Hands clutch warm forks
like someone might yank out
this white tablecloth reality and

we’d be back slurping
unmarked soup cans
trying not to inhale ash
on our smoke break.


Bushman, Direct Us

He lived at the fork in the road,
gnarled cable hands which
now crimp my crew’s truck windowsill.

He points a knowing wicker finger up
a long snarl of mud
no one would call a road.

He jimmies a smile
for us. Be careful,
he says,
even the helicopters have trouble
walking up that hill.

He wheezes at his joke,
his mute laugh warm on my face,
a Chinook between tobacco coppered lips.



from Issue #8, Summer 2014