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Existential Crisis after Lightning Fire

God isn’t what I’m looking for
in singe marks on hollowed trees

or barbwire limp between lodgepoles
like some lifeless snake hung as warning.

Here are elk scat and skeletons.
Here the river splits Idaho from Oregon

and a yearling black bear fishes
the Snake. Headfirst into whitewater

and then he’s gone, sopping: haloed
by sunlight as he flees what is left standing

and named.
                         If there’s lightning in August,
flames kindle easy. They spread. Still—no

lost structures, no casualties beyond thousands
of acres of evergreens which must burn

to grow again.
                              When is it that we stop
holding on? Measure the distance between

where the salmon spawn and where they return.
Follow their impatient arcs over rapids,

all twisting gleam and gill. This eddy
is thick with king and sockeye, gyring

as though they’re home, churning pink
and alive under a water pane skinned by ash.


Posted 04/03/13
Originally appeared in The Southern Review 48:4 (Autumn 2012)
Books by Luke Johnson
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