JEANNINE HALL GAILEY
I’ve Been Burned
Like the forests, charred and then blooming furiously into the spring air, bluebells and yellow plumes, doomed to disappear. Like skin healed over, never quite the same to the touch. Foxfire ablaze in the dark. In the air this spring it smells like gasoline, despite the daffodils in the yard. We’re waiting for rain. My scars are the kind that sing. Sometimes god speaks to you from a burning bush; sometimes he allows you to be burned at the stake, still singing. The mind of god is difficult to discern, especially these days. Why is there smoke lingering in my hair, still? You can’t escape the feeling that we’re all marching into the flames, even when the sky is so blue, that the horizon holds a fire we can’t possibly contain.
I wrote “I’ve Been Burned” around the time of the wildfires around Seattle in the summer of 2019. I have a manuscript in progress which was inspired by the Joan of Arc story and the idea of being born able to withstand fire. I was also thinking of the damage the multiple sclerosis I’d been diagnosed with had left on my brain in the last few years; when your MS affects your brain, it’s called a flare, which sounds like a fire, doesn’t it? And, of course, I have been writing apocalypse poems for ten years; who knew a real-life apocalypse was so close to us then?
Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Red- mond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. Her work has appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter/Instagram: @webbish6.