We’ve all arrived.
The man who fled in the night
with four guinea pigs and his wallet.
The youth with a set jaw and rolled-up sleeves,
pushing a pit bull in a stroller.
The girls from the rehab facility, knitting scarves
before lights out.
The newly homeless infant
playing with a fire truck. One by one
he presses the buttons.
“When there’s a fire, dial 911!” chirps the voice of someone
who lives underwater.
“The ladder on the roof is for saving people!”
He turns the truck in his hands.
What came has burned down everything,
the walls of our homes,
and the walls over the mountains,
and the walls between us.
Each morning we gather before the freezing sinks
in the restroom, marveling
at the pleasure of soap, the way we can live
without knowing, the kindness of strangers.
Counselors walk among the cots. Nurses,
a Threshold Choir.
Practitioners offer massages. Young men come dressed as Spider-Man
and a Jedi Knight, posing for pictures with children.
Kids we’ve never met send cards: “God Loves You!”
scrawled in crayon on orange construction paper adorned
with football cutouts and autumn leaves.
We will pass from under these arches
with our tote bags and our blankets,
wearing other people’s clothes.
We’ll go back to our separate tribes and our separate towns,
but there’s no breaking this.
Once held, you’re embraced forever.
That was the secret behind the flames. We carry it out, to the landscapes
we used to know.
Oct. 14-29, 2017
Sonoma resident Lori Barron was the creator/host of Sonoma Valley Poetry on KSVY 91.3 FM from 2004-2005. She currently tutors students in writing at Napa Valley College.