Fire

Ian Ramsey

Dan Namingha, Horizon at Dusk, Acrylic on Canvas, 40"x40" ©2019

Fire

Ojai’s on fire and the San Juans are on fire  

and the Southern Amazon’s on fire, just like  

     Myanmar,  

all visible on a world map with little flame  

emojis on my phone, an effort by  

a well-meaning NGO to gamify the burning  

of our world. Gamify: a strange response  

to thousand-year-old villages vaporizing,  

the screams of mothers digitized, beamed  

to satellites and cell towers, and thoughtful  

Starbucksing thumbs noticing between  

Instagram posts, holding the burning world  

in their hands, gaining points for paying attention.   

But threatening and cajoling and celebrating  

and guilting are weaker than swiping,  

     always swiping.  

Swipe and burn and swipe and melt and swipe  

and terrorize and swipe and huddle in boats  

in the Aegean and swipe for the dopamine drip.  

In Portland it was 110, the Cascades burning.  

I saw a photo of Gifford Pinchot, wondering  

what he would think. Forest service planes floated  

through the smoke like ghosts of fire seasons past.  

On CNN, everything was burning, a cartoon of disaster.  

The fire, persistent and lonely, keeps to itself and says:  

Here’s a tree that is burning & here’s a house  

that is burning, even though water is nearby.  

Yes, this dog is also burning, and when  

will you wake up and start calling me by your name?  


Ian Ramsey splits his time between the Maine coast and Cascadia.  He directs the Kauffmann Program for Environmental Writing and Wilderness Exploration, teaching and leading backcountry trips, and collaborating with scientists on climate research. His work has appeared in places like Terrain.org, Off the Coast, and the Mountain Research Initiative. he holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop, and is an ultrarunner and licensed Maine Sea Kayak Guide.