In the Parable of Fire a driver who has been dozing
lowers his car window and pitches his cigarette
into a gulley at midnight. As the spark smolders
and glows under dry chaparral, the first level
of meaning may be glimpsed: literal, dim.
When a breeze fans the glimmer into a glaring
expanse, the smoke plume rises like an emblem
and sets down a bed of ash, new layers
of thought where locoweed and desert phlox
once covered the hill by the highway.
The immigrant pickers asleep in tents near the ridge
think the smoke in their dreams comes from votive
candles back home. In a ritual they curl
more tightly into burlap bags and think
their wives lie beside them
while the flames advance higher, borne
by Santa Ana winds, as if by a will.
Yet the fire storm, with every intention
of blackening trees and singeing the moon,
maps out a myth whose meaning is written on water.