The first day, the fire climbed the slash
like a jungle gym and leapt to the canopy.
We dug out eight kilometers of hand line
where the slope was too steep for the Cat.
I snapped a Pulaski and ground
my palms to burger. Thank god we’re not
a dry camp. The next three days,
the pump rattled like a Datsun cresting
the Coquilhala. It sucked from the pond
until the shallows quivered with a jelly
of tadpoles. We drew a circle in two-inch hose
and bare soil and called the fire contained.
If anyone asks, Kamloops, the fire is contained.
We spend our overtime among the black spires
of burnt fir, sniffing for the socks-on-the-
camp-stove scent of smouldering duff.
I wake up pawing the motel carpet
for hot spots. A voice on the handheld asks
if I remember my old life. I remember
ground fire creeping from root to root,
approaching an interface with the unspoken.
A threat under the surface. Now, I could load
my duffel into a chopper and fly, nose down,
along the seam of the present tense.
Self-sufficient for twenty-four hours
with a birds-eye view of the point of ignition.
Comments by the Editorial Team
Shaun Robinson’s “How Soon, How Likely, How Severe” is a realistic poem that veers away from the romantic while managing to “approac[h] an interface with the unspoken.” The language draws readers in, with sensory details that capture a particular moment. The image of the hotel carpet burns into one’s memory.