For August into September,
For all the fires, and those who fight them, those who survive them, 12 poems…


All My Books

the first editions
not infamous

never opened
never read the
new releases
the old and worn books
pulled from shelves
ash mixed with ash

I feel the boards
their spines
bent flat
spread like hands
like old faces
their pages
they mouth the words
black type staring
forming questions
about my intentions

all my books
left wide open so
speak to me.

James A Bonacci



The Fire’s Path

is moved by wind
by the dry air of a dry year
by the objects it encounters
along the way and
the fire’s destruction seems
at once arbitrary
and absolute

how does a fire draw its own path
draw its one line
down the hill
through the neighborhood
across the field of grass and oak

how does it decide
to burn his roof
but not her house
to burn my house
but not my car
to burn his car
but not her yard
to burn their yard and take their house
but leave the fencing
that they just replaced last month

is it naturally selective
carried by the whims of this wind
blowing across the shape of our geography
or does it follow the path we paved and plowed
this cross-hatch of roads and farms and towns.

I am staring at the
brand new bicycle
left in a yard after
their hurried evacuation
leaning against a black-dead tree
abandoned by the family
whose child used to ride it
through the neighborhood
and wave at me left
abandoned like my house
and theirs
two small bike tires
fully inflated
forming deep grooves in the ash

the only real evidence left among
a loose grid of street lamps
on a blank map of our

James A Bonacci



I Used To Live There

through elementary
middle school and some
high school but then
I lived through so
much more
in that house
in my room
in the garden
that we planted

now I am staring at
the door or where
the door used to be
from across the street
so many memories
so many stories left
to tell you when

I used to live there

the sloping lot that dropped to
the curb of an old state road
giant oak in the front
that I would hide behind
so many games of kick the can
the tall fence I used to climb
to get away
to stay away
all day we played when

I used to live there

Now in a fitful sleep
I dream myself back
to the places and
all the spaces left behind
barren by fire and try to
laugh away the tears

blank address
broken mailbox
dirty driveway
lonely foundation
that still carries the weight of
an old appliance and
my red brick chimney.

I used to live there.
I live there now.

James A Bonacci



A Memory of a Canine Hiding

I wanted to seem helpful holding
this map of the neighborhood
searching all the hiding places
in the silences calling
for a little lost dog

who never made a noise
or answered to my voice
but found an open door
too tempting to ignore,

How does a dog disappear into thin air?

after a day and a night
and a day it strayed
no evidence left on
the map you made me

I have not seen your dog, I said
but I thought of you, today
I have not heard your dog, I said
but I thought of you, today,

and for all the days that ended,
and in all the silence that followed,
in a daylight full of nighttime rising,
in a daylight full of smoke that settled.

I can still see you sitting there
outside the door of my house
that used to be a house
across the street from
the door of your house
now the ghost of a house
waiting for a canine hiding,

and I wonder if a dog can have nine lives.

How does a dog appear out of thin air?

James A Bonacci



I Thought I Saw A Coyote

It was midnight
it was later and
it was cold and still
quiet for one small
moment an animal sound
the echo escaped me
waking from sleep
or still in a dream

I heard the bark of
a coyote returning or
searching for something
coming from a
far away
nearby place
broken up
in the silent night a lament
lifted off the ash that floats
on the dead air of October

I stepped outside in
the smoke of a
new moon darkness
looking for a coyote
listening for its voice

I was looking for its shape
in the body of a ghost
in the silence broken by
a single hoot of an owl
passing through the
burnt limbs of
so many dead trees
along the road
along the hills beyond
the fire that split its
home in two

was I imagining this animal
or the memory of some animal
in the precarious
minutes between us
in the still of this night
I thought I saw a coyote but
maybe it was nothing at all
maybe I heard nothing at all
maybe you are nothing after all
still calling from inside
my restless sleep.

James A Bonacci



Old White Horse

Before the fire

there was an old white horse
in the empty lot between
here and there beyond
the road I traveled every
day out there standing
alone along the fence
looking over at the
cars that passed

I said hello waving in the morning
I said goodbye waving sometimes
in the evening of those
days of weeks of months
a few years out there in
the sun and the shade
through the wind and the fog
in the rain and the
darkness of the late winter months
the old white horse
just stood out there.

After the fire

after all the smoke cleared
after all the sifting through
remains of all the days that passed

I consider the old white horse
missing from its empty lot
among so many empty lots
lost in the smoke above
lost in the ash below
the burned out remains
of names and places
of wood and metal
the lean-to it would inhabit
to stay out of the sun
to stay out of the rain and

I imagine in those
tense early minutes
the first signs of fire
the old white horse broke
through the gate of the empty lot
broke free of its existence and is now
running free somewhere out there
between the burn scar of its home
and the salt spray of the ocean beyond.

James A Bonacci



Of All The Trucks

that I have owned –
Toyota, Dodge, Ford, and Chevy –
why did the fire have to take this one

no point in discussing what
you see parked in my driveway
now dead in the driveway
that is barely a driveway

hard enough to identify
drawing the outline of a shell
around the burnt metal
and plastic shapes of
ash and gray
black soot
flattened tires and the
blown out glass
missing the windshield
missing a personality
where is its history
lost in the paperwork
folded in the glovebox and

all the work it brought to me
all the sweat and tears
and all the years
that passed
burned away in
one quick day and
night in October now

isn’t it ironic
that I used to haul
firewood in the bed
of this truck now
full of ash from the
oak trees that burned
all around it.

James A Bonacci




Paw prints
in the ash and
the small pools of
dirty water that collect
that hold or hide the
the stories of our losses
the stories of their travels
to safety or maybe
to meet their end
in a blinding smoke
a burn in the throat
the call for help lost in
the wind and ash cloud
stuck between fire
line and fire fight

the prints are all we
have their histories
like documents
like photographs
impressions in the ash
their reflections lost in
pools of water the
diminishing shapes of
a dry heat chimera
our memories are fading.

James A Bonacci




from a burning sky or
of a burn in the throat
wood frame house
where foundations end
the torn curtains and
an empty bird feeder
waiting for birds
there are no more birds
just chimneys of brick
and cement
cinder blocks that
stand alone that
mark the addresses
and emptied lots of
collapsed roofs
collapsed lives the

uncomfortably thin
tree trunks like
burnt matchsticks
an unattended plastic play house
next to no house
next to a security gate
left open

black ash outlines of a house
chalk outlines of the dead
frames like skeletons
red brick fire brick
line of ash crosses
line of sight and a
fence line meeting fence line
metal tools left in a burnt toolbox
some as new
some deformed by the heat in
shades of rust and gray in

fire and smoke the
death of memories in a burn pile
of family papers
and family photos
in beautiful earth tones
abstracted shapes of
things that used to be
things that might have been
fragments of childhood
fragments of memory
fragments of time
stopped by the intense heat
the uncontrolled movement of a fire
by wind
by chance
by obstacles in its path

the blackened metallic abstract
sculptures of heat and steel
of melted tire
and melted fabric
the shards of glass
reflecting lost transportation
lost escape plans of

shapes of things found
or left to be found
everything left behind by
a frantic search for safety
for a home that is not home

James A Bonacci



Ingredients To Make Smoke Left Behind By A Wildfire

Ash and tar
pulverized cement and concrete dust
sap and tree pollen
lead from old paint
and other heavy metals
the rubber of tires and seals
that never formed
stainless steel and aluminum
fabric and formaldehyde
melted plastic
metal shavings and
metal dust
dirt and mud
chemicals and cleaning supplies
petroleum and gasoline
poisons and powders
drywall and brick dust
the stench and smell of
other people’s trash

ad infinitum
mixed together

The taste of smoke
still here it
lingers on the tongue
now a year has come
and gone this
anniversary of
bitter flavors and the
bitter memories
for any small wind that
might carry them away.

James A Bonacci



Come Undone

I had to let it all go
I had to let it fall

the memories
my stories

the words
like leaves
like stars
like ashes they slip
between my fingers
so easily

left to grasp at the air
in front of me
not left to gasp
from the smoke
breathed in so deeply
like lead in the lungs
the taste of fire and failure

holding two old shoeboxes
stuffed with pride
stuffed with the years
that passed so slowly
the tears that fall so
quickly and quietly
upon the ruins of a house
now there is nothing
left but new dreams
of a plot of land leftover
and a gray stone foundation
to build on.

James A Bonacci



Rising From These Ashes

The moon, like light, if not for this night
the sun, like heat, if not for this weather
the cloud, like cover, but not for the hidden
the water, like rain, it washes clean our sins
and the wind, it lifts away the pain
and the ash that floats in the air
my breath upon this wind
releases my soul

I am staring at a sky
full of stars and stars
but who can count them
standing on this earth the
ground beneath my feet
releasing a heat
feeling of the fire,
a burn in the throat

this sky, split in half by day,
by night, like light into shadow
ash into cloud that forms and rises
the failure and redemption
in this life or the next
my mouth still makes the sounds
the shapes of words to speak
of a distant weather building

of the moon like a sun that rises
of the sun like the stars that fall
like the rain that forms
each drop a tiny sphere
of its own orbit
falling slowly to the burnt soil
rising slowly to a heaven
if there is a heaven, or,
if there is a hell, to be left
waiting on this earth
like a single drop of rain
a single tear

I am trying to remember
how it was to burn
how it is to rise from
these ashes.

James A Bonacci





All writings and poems on this page copyright 2009 – 2020, James A. Bonacci