in quiet moments I remember the barn down the street, attacked by arsonists, watching in my nightgown as a girl, the school bus driving past the embers the next morning. I remember a car flipped off an overpass, smoke tower coiling high, ambulances and police roadblocks not yet arrived so traffic moved smoothly past the mangling, my college luggage safe in the trunk of the family station wagon. I remember watching Los Angeles aflame, first the blackness in the sky, then from the helicopter POV on TV, then at last as I drove home by the reddening mountains. friends of mine spoke of the rain of ash but I did not see it myself. some trees survived. they rise from the hills, candles on a birthday cake waiting to be lit.
she keeps his letters in the drawer of her desk. there are not too many. they get crumpled round the edges, pushed beneath spare batteries and low-inked pens. she does not read them often but sometimes when she dreams of a different place, a place from the past, the girl she used to be, she holds the letters in her hands. not like jewels or divorce papers or other precious things. she just holds them. there was a time when life burned, it burned, it burned, she thinks, and she has lost it.