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IRIS DUNKLE

Firefall

Though it is cold,
the fires in the Lodge
remain unlit all day;
the world outside still starched
and sifted with the flour
of yesterdayís snow.

For hours,
in the great hall of the Awahnee
Iíve been looking up at
a life-size portrait of John Muir.

Heís posing against a granite boulderó
larger-than-life,
mirroring my grammar-school memory
of his history--

When Muir hiked he ate only
the stale bread he could lift
off his fatherís bakery in Mariposa,

dipping their rough crusts
into mountain streams
to loosen them up.

He stitched trails,
wove his thin body down
the crevices of every rock
these naked windows face--


All day, Iíve been trying to think
of something to give you--
a souvenir, a risk--

but the portrait of Muir,
the taste of his two thin lips,
has me fixed in this chair.

Theyíre like a pair of blue butterflies
I could trap in my palms
and press to my lips.

* * *

My mother has told me for years
about the firefalls--

from Glacier Point--
the highest peak,
the Rangers would light
huge bonfires every week

just to see them spill over
down to the valley floor
as they yelled from above:
Let the fire fall.

I have never seen it.
The firefalls were banned
years before I was born,

But I have grown accustomed
to believing my Mother.

She says loving is whatís
most important in life

not butterflies, not
marking what is yours--

What Iím giving you
is the possibility
of what might ignite--

fire falling down
as the men yell from above,
their voices echoing
through the whole discovered park.



Iris Jamahl Dunkle received her M.F.A. from New York University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Case Western Reserve University. Her work has appeared in Cleveland in Prose and Poetry, Fence, Squaw Valley Review, and Washington Square. She's been teaching creative writing in both University and community environments for the past eight years. (ijd3@case.edu)


Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761