Claire Anna Baker "Continuous Ends" (Detail)

Claire Anna Baker "Continuous Ends" (Detail)

Allison Hedge Coke


from "Burn"


Population too sparse here for national concern, though

Public Radio does spare lives near, maybe

our own, measly thrill


a bitter bitter thing in coverage accolades, but damnit they do

deserve attention, we depend on them, covering fire.

Give them glory, we’ll


share in it, same face, Border Patrol/Walk In, all phoenix rise,

nothing sheared shares grace,

black peel crusts everything,


surviving’s the only reason. Look at it, gone. No fire climax

pines here to justify so much loss,

rebirth here, a fought thing.


Mr. Spanish buried ceremonially in shoebox, under glory, flagpoled,


                        each niña entered escuela.




SBI burned down the shooting gallery back when. Now

tis anyone’s game, gamble,

                                                            crap shoot, loosing lives like


spit on clay, baked hard, broken.

                                                            What’s the seed of it? Crack?





All roads travel onward, until they end.


     Everything ends in time.

Everything temporary. An eternal fire holds itself, only in heat,


fuel, oxygen, triangulate combustion,

tetrahedral support planes

existence, life spark,           yet fire has been carried, cultivated, cured


since first fire. It’s log bundle, hollowed,      fed.


He fed the first from his pick up on I-44. Tossed the news out his window,

                                                                        flaming until half of Luther

left Oklahoma in fury so hot, all it left was white ash, the whole of it

                                                                        under skies dark with night

shining proof of other worlds. Orion holding up east. The gleam of it maddening.





Stars surely shine.                       Sun’s running sky each morning.

Sirius still rounds night except

for seventy days or so.


Always will.  Stardust precedes Earth.


Predate dust. You can’t. Dust has been and rises when-

ever wind wills.

Gusts a given out here.





We don’t know when fire will still, when embers left end themselves,

nor when rain will visit, come to renew,

                                                            to free us from burn, from danger.


Nor do we know what caused this end, the timing of a heat plate on long

grass, the nearness of glass to blade in sunlight,

                                                            the year of the drought,


though some speculate larger cycles,

                                                            the roundabout here is intangible.


Nor do we offer ideas, unless plied with cold lager in the heat here, or


in evenings laid out under fiery stars still gleaming, always lighting

pathways we lean toward in nighttime escapes,

                                                            to towns down the road


in the meantime. No we don’t know. All we know is we are not alone

and yet we are and everything is subject to fire,

                                                            even the water leaves


in heated paths. What we don’t know we don’t search for, nor do we

attempt to understand. No, we take it.

                                                            Deal with it. We muster.





We move through the crust salvaging pieces, we are salvagers; move

through the heat lifting recognizable source,

                                                            lifting permanence


from tempered time, lifting home. We tote burned wire, cur it into sphere

like Story, surround light with it,

                                                            harness energy and plug it in until


globes rekindle Marfa fires once surrounding livestock, now bordering

glow, it is the strand we fill, the obligation,

                                                            remaking stuff from cinder.








                 Twins we carried then laid.

                                                       One light, one fire.         Do they rest?

Do they feel this burden, the melting iron, wire,

                                                                           shifting wind funneling


them across prairie in winding plumes, are they turning? 


                                                            What of the way

we were embraced to conceive them?                   Held there like satchels beaded


in cedar spring holding floral bursts.         In dense trees, in hills,         waterways

we come from             the kneel there

                                                   when we bury, bring gifts, make offerings.


In the burn of your brow, when you hastened, did you think before belting

me? Conceive intent?

                                                            What were you, but burning?





Yet, fire is the birth of life, the spark there and we

                                                               were with spark, ignited.

My life emptied into the banks below mounds they now lay within. They


 were within me, now within our mother.



                                                            I sometimes long to lie there but



I, too, muster.





You,     long gone to other worlds,


                                       not over there, but wandering spark,





ALLISON HEDGE COKE’s books include four books of poetry, Streaming (forthcoming from Coffee House Press), The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman (American Book Award winner, Coffee House) and Off-Season City Pipe (Coffee House); the memoire, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer; and Blood Run, a verse-play. Hedge Coke has edited eight additional collections, including: Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous Americas, Effigies, and the soon to be released Effigies II. HedgeCoke directs the Literary Sandhill Crane Retreat & Festival and has been awarded fellowships/residencies with Lannan Foundation, Weymouth Center for the Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, Hawthornden Castle, MacDowell Colony, and Great Plains Center. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories.