Cindy Hunter Morgan – Fire Department Exercise

photo credit: Krystian Olszanski


Cindy Hunter Morgan
Fire Department Exercise

Up in the rafters,
a panicked raccoon freezes
on a cross beam. Little

bandit, it has pilfered
baling twine, latch to
the grain bin, buckle

from a pony’s harness,
owl egg from a nest
in the eaves. Even its

scat – clumps hardened
on empty pallets, caked
on a window sill – steals

the scent of hay.
It won’t make it out, but look
at what escapes:

swallows sweeping across
a slate sky, their felted
wings wiping out gnats,

pollen, words that still
linger – goodnight old girls,
stay warm
. Almost

a movie scene, this barn
burning, but it’s only a fire
department exercise.

No one will run out
in long johns to save any
animals. There aren’t

any actors – grandfather
calling Ruthie, Dolly, grandmother
pressing two sugar cubes

into the palm of my hand.
The horses are dead,
buried in mounds beside

the barn, eye sockets stuffed
with dirt, bones sunk too deep
for coyotes to pick.

Later, for hours, plumes
of smoke will swirl
like chalk dust,

raccoons will raise
tiny, leather hands –
wipe goodbye, goodbye.