“Fears After the Indonesian Forest Fires” By Anna Ziering (2017)

Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize, Winner (2017)

Death, of course. Having no God.
Sunday afternoons, New England falls. Sleet storms
like the one that dented the new car and traumatized the dog,

who never liked loud noise; who, like me
when I was young, couldn’t stomach fireworks. They made us
cry—that spinet-silence between light and sound; the pause

I associate now with xenophobic celebrants, fanatics, bombs,
the oil cliff, with flying
toward concrete

and with Misagh-1s. With floods; droughts; people
killing each other for water. Fire escapes and all that
they imply. With surviving too long, which seems worse

than not surviving. But then I’ve never liked the irreversible—
immediate or creeping by degree. In 2015, when I had my son,
I couldn’t look at him for days.

I knew the ending. Southeast Asia was on fire.
Our AC ran. Across the world, slow
ceiling fans carved circles in the spreading haze.

This poem first appeared in the 2017 edition of LRR.