“At the Interface” by Renée E. D’Aoust
“Catch fire, move on.”
—Gary Snyder, Turtle Island
If it all went up in flames, what would I do?
Before her right hand shriveled to a claw, Mom tilled soil around her son’s Paradise lily. Once my brother, then a flower. Mom carried on, weeding with her left.
What would I do, if the log cabin burned down?
The oregano patch round the house should be defensible space: firefighters in bloom. I don’t clear our oregano patch. I cannot weed whack the forest’s fragrant interface,
the line a wolverine expert, with beaver musk and bear scat in a vial, calls “the edge”:
fir, cedar, and pine, quaking aspen, tenacious cottonwood.
Would I lose my mind—to fire at the edge of memory and renewal?
I scrape burnt toast to save the bread underneath. Imagine this fire, jumping treetops, flames
a giant pogo stick, my bark flamed free, my uterus gone, my mother gone, my brother gone.
Why would a fire matter now, when that family has flamed out already?
My dachshund wants to hunt the squirrel’s latest path to the chicken coop, to kill one more mouse. Her tally rises. A high-pitched bark at the wild edge of cuddle.
I accept death by dog, not by firetrap.
In the space of imaginary fire, lightning refutes sleep. My tube of fur wakes, illuminated
by Orion’s flashing belt. Mother’s Moon Garden becomes her namesake’s glow.
I pack a tub of pictures by the door. Wear my gold necklaces, Mother’s silver bracelet. Carry
my brother’s Swiss Army knife in my pocket. Fire plays no favorites.
“As long as we have the dog,” my father and I say, echoing Mom, the loss of her. We follow Hoot Owl regulations, stop running the chainsaw in the afternoons. Stop nattering like squirrels.
We keep keys in the car, hold the dachshund close.
My mother said: “When fire comes, get out sooner than later.”
[Previously published in Trestle Creek Review.]
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“At the Interface” was created as part of an “Endangered” collaborative project curated by poet Georgia Tiffany, who held a reading and art gallery showing/exhibit in Moscow, Idaho for all the poets/artists. Renee & the artist Stacy Isenberger’s collaboration (poetry & sculpture) was subsequently published in the Trestle Creek Review.
Renée E. D’Aoust’s book of experimental essays Body of a Dancer (Etruscan Press, 2011) was a ForeWord Reviews “Book of the Year” finalist. She is the recipient of
Puffin Foundation, Idaho Arts commission, and Idaho Department of Lands grants, the “Intro to Journals” award from AWP, the “Midnight Sun” fiction award from
Permafrost, and six “Notable” essays from the Best American Essays anthology series. D’Aoust has numerous book reviews and journal publications to her credit,
including most recently Brevity, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Sweet. D’Aoust is the Managing Editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies and a Contributing Editor to Women Owning Woodlands. She teaches online at North Idaho College and Casper College.