December 23: another poem about the Northwest

December 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The great Yakima fire

(based on a true story)

In the morning the fire caught them unprepared.
Whereas the boys had nothing to save that they could not make again
when they were older or make up from rope and skin and teeth marks,
and whereas the girls never had anything to start with,
while the husband felt wise and heroic and escorted the children in the manner of the finest firefighter,
and this being long ago
no parakeets, parrots, or Pekinese were in need of saving,
and the operation was so efficient
they all relaxed too soon
sitting by a river bank giddy about how they would rebuild the house
and Who will get the best room now that we are older
and Sissy is about to marry,
and for a brief fateful minute no one noticed that the mother was not there.
When they finally turned around
molasses-slow
they saw her running back into the house
shouting The sewing machine! What will I do without my sewing machine?
And then she was gone.
Later the daughters made an oath never to marry or cook for another or make others’ clothes,
and except for Etta, who married for money, they kept it well.

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