Special Issue: Wildfire

With the goal of celebrating nature in the wake of the worst wildfire season that Colorado and the Western US has ever seen, we opened submissions for a special issue, Wildfire.

I am proud to say that because of you, we’ve donated 140 trees to One Tree Planted, an amazing nonprofit.

As always, thank you for trusting us with your work. Now, sit back, and enjoy some refreshing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art from creatives around the world!


Rachel Noall

Founding Editor

The Natural World, by Ron Koertge

We’re sprawled on the wide library lawn

with some plump dogs.

One seems to be reading over his owner’s

shoulder but is just dozing.

The wind tip-toes in, but it’s been so still

we all look up when the trees move a little.

Above us, pigeons loop and veer. They could be

scraps of a love letter

some lesser god has torn up and thrown

at the sun.

Fish in the River Where Others Smirked by Clay Hunt

In the pampered forest, I felt a blast of pine-scented needles

puncturing my stomach, like the sun

blasting through the limitless tress.

It was the own soil I stood on that had me sinking, and I begged

the network of fungi deeply rooted in this modern forest,

to help me realize how communication worked between the bears

and the fish.

With diligence, I asked and asked.

No one worries about my survival like I do.

A Golden Bear caught Rainbow Trout with experienced claws and expected the

newcomers of the forest to starve, only they do the fish trick again.

This time, I witnessed the swift claws of the Golden Bear, cloaked by the sun and droplets of the


The clear foaming of the fresh water flew into the air and landed on fallen trees, and the bear held

glory in its mouth. Glory that bled on the bear’s teeth.

I was going to taste that glory, and feel the blood trickle down my throat. I mimicked the Golden

Bear and cloaked myself with the California sun.

My arms lifted and became rods that sunk deep in the water, hoping to fish out success.

Autumn at Medicine Lake by Karin Hedetniemi

Autumn at Medicine Lake by Karin Hedetniemi

“Phoenician” by Mickey Tommins

The coals were told to hold tight and let themselves

burn. and burn slowly.

and burn all the way down.

They were told to sit in the hot ashtray

while air escaped the lungs of neighbors,

while men clung on to treasures,

while spoiled air swirled in toxic plumes,

while tissue flaked like onion peels,

while the darkness made daylight crimson,

while the combustion caved in,

and diminished.

Those coals were told to rise like fireweed,

to stretch wings and fly

in smolderous spans of feathered smoke.

To be consumed by that in which they are conceived,

to fall out of ashen doors forever flaming,

to be burned through before becoming.

They were told to hide in the cinders

to wait until they were not to blame,

to arise resilient and annihilated.

Pollywogs in Spoons Michael Maul

Above this old farm near where we live

a searing sun brings out water striders

who walk the surface of a pond

which is, to them, the moon.

I kneel to use a serving spoon

to skim tadpoles from the top,

as if it were, to me, a bowl of soup,

set here just to show my kids

that living life goes on.

We look into the lowest hollow of the spoon

and see frenzied swimmer tails.

Closer to the top is a funhouse reflection

of our silver peering faces.

The youngest says she sees her mom.

I try to explain

It is Man’s job is to carve out dirt

to make the shell that holds a pond.

Then Nature shoulders what remains:

all else it takes

to fill and tend a teeming pond.

Soon I will bridge the edges of water and land,

bend and tip

a glinting spoon filled with tadpoles

who wriggle back

to where frog seeds know how to grow.

Then, holding hands I lead the way

to where we parked next to the road

and drive back into a heavy life

in a too quiet home of too many rooms.

Tonight I hope my kids may dream.

not just of loss and sad surprises,

but of happy days where Jesus Bugs

day and night walk the water of this world

to keep them safe and comfort daughters in scary rooms.

May they bless an entire world of boys and girls,

water wrens in rushes,

and things to show ways back to life,

pollywogs in spoons.

Springtide Ditty by D.R. James

Mascara’d vegetation bats its green

audacity and amplifies the breeze

singing through new-lingering day: cool-jazz suite

backing the birds. Kinetic blooming. Keen

riffling. Cobbled ruffling. Flimsy blanket-billow.

Cavalier matins began the scramble

under porcelain, moon-lit cumulus,

velour milieu still cloaking my pillow.

Resurrected spring re-relished refutes

whichever well-heeled cons are in cahoots.

Cairn by Jordan T. Swift

Cairn by Jordan T. Swift

Horticulture by Adam Coday

It is a perennial: it comes year after year

each spring and summer

unlike the cosmos.

You must kill it at its roots

if you think you might replace it.

I know it tempts you

to trade it in for something sweeter to you,

but instead, you nurture it

and you tend to its every need.

You water it

and you pick off its dead heads

so they grow back again

like a hydra, each one

more gripping than the last.

You prune it

when the time is right

with those sheers (a tough match

for these snapdragons, no doubt), then

you give it sun,

but it casts a shadow

and won’t talk back when you speak to it.

It withholds from you.

It shuts you out

and threatens you with an urn

should you dig into its soil,

but you know well it’s not a worry

since it grew pansies this year.

Someday soon,

it could grow lilacs again

and that’s what makes it worthwhile.

It is your Eden, that sweet perfume

of a fresh bloom, pure and enriching

like a gardener’s love, until the season ends

and it escapes you.

PETALS AND ASH by Terra Vagus

blessed with a curse

the red flower is

exquisitely erect.

delicate sways in the wind.

though she broods over life.

a future of war.

pain striking at all angles.

stretching, contorting, ripping

until a thief of identity arrives bearing the coldest snow.

the red flower loves them so.

buried in snow ’til she can no longer stand.

one gust of wind and her petals dance.

all the way

to the ground.

until all that remains is a pile of death.

petals and ash are all that is left.

the last smoke rises.

a gift for the thief.

last love.

last embrace.

last petal floats off in the breeze.

Mezzo-Tenor Duet by Alan Bern

Mezzo-Tenor Duet by Alan Bern

Emotion by Erich von Hungen

Nature has inflicted it —

its pain,

its anger,

its smacking fist

upon the earth.

The lightning comes.

The roar —

only following that ruthlessness.

The screamed emotion —

only, only after.

The burning earth


in soaring, in whooshing,

in hissing, crackling, crashing, “Why’s?”.

But always that distance

between the lightning and the thunder,

as if it takes some time

for anger to understand,

for force to realize,

for emotion to be caught up to.

Always, it always takes some time,

but nothing like the time

of a forest,

a whole hillside

to finish burning —

and then to forgive and grow again.

Mud by Jennifer Corbet

Mud contains the macrocosm

Sodden remains of very small creatures

Lumpy fragments of larger ones

The spit of an angry old man

Flower petal and bone rendered

Into velvet dust that infiltrates the voids

Excreted calling cards left by all

Essence of bug

Whispers of sun and moon and solar flare

Last year’s seed, latent and full of possibility

Or perhaps milled by animal and element

To a fine flour, original colors

Long since quashed

Into browns and grays

The next county’s perhaps the next country’s

Sampling of rock dust, bacteria, and fungi all

Deposited with a flourish

By roving aeolian and alluvian swirls that caress

And stampede across variable landscapes

Around the marbled blue sphere

A protozoan, mycorrhizal army incessantly

Occupied with the work of packing and converting

Microscopic worker bees and

Ambassadors constructing

The foundation upon which we depend

Life fractures and resolves through these grimy horizons

As do the bi-products of our hubris

Communion ending cocktails

Spewed like empty banter into our gulping

Atmosphere; into waterways that trickle

And those that roar into

Etherized landscapes

Blindly inexorably

Converted into

Planetary icing

Into mud

A Refuge No More by Daniel Reiner

An urge had called her back …

Urge? Instinct? No matter.

She darts into her old home for a final check.

A final sniff.


Nothing remains in the darkness but fuzzy echoes of memories. The place had been good

for raising a family. No longer, though. Death hangs in the air. Acting on the first whiff, she’d

gotten the children out, taken them to a safe spot. She turns to leave.

A sound—faint, but oh so terrible—catches her ear.

Cautious, nose out, she smells, looks, listens. Grey air, choking thick, blurs her senses.

That sound, once again: The children, crying!

She launches—

A CRACK knocks her sideways, down. She tries to get up, can’t. Her legs fail. Through

red pain and gasps she hears rumbling growls, knows the danger.

The growls are close now.

“See that, boy? Fire brings ’em up. Then you pick ’em off. Easy.”

“Should we put the fire out, daddy? It’s catchin’ pretty good.”

“Nah. It’ll burn itself out. Now, put this ’un out of its misery, then we’ll get the kits.”

“Yes, daddy.”

Octopus by Paul Llechko

Clabbered in shell

or exploding through smoke

circles the dream of liquid intelligence

the subtle molding possibility of mercy

braiding through an algae blizzard

a forest of kelp

a rainbow illusion of life

spiraling dynamic in the streaming

amphibious habitat

lit from beyond the oxygen border

diffused yet radiant


a single act of love

an even greater sacrifice

as a million theories of soul

are released for testing

a boneless miracle of regeneration

and blood gives life for blood.

Wild Green by Jonathan Brooks

Wild Green by Jonathan Brooks

Rock, Paper, Skin by Christine Cock

A comet has been seen diving into the sun.

What’s left of its icy core is a boulder-strewn path,

broken pieces, like a crumb trail aiding return

to its cold origin. Some people need religion to cure

their longing. I need news from rocks, among other things.

How they’ve endured the weight of crushing earth,

constant laundering by tides and streambeds,

emerging rough-skinned as jackfruit,

smooth like paper’s surface or crenellated from a tenure

within ocean’s depths. I do not know if rocks have spirit,

but the one in my lap smudged by fire says

there are many ways to come home to this world

and this rock must be kin to the one

whose fated journey ended in a heated explosion.

For that matter so are we and there is something

about your hands, solid and worn,

that remind me of rocks’ unwavering stability.

Arthritic knuckles, tipless finger, the whole

marred surface. One flat piece of sandstone

returned with us from the Sonoran desert looking

remarkably like a slice of moldy bread.

A round speckled granite brought from Maine’s

shoreline sits meditation below our birdbath.

Rocks appear unforgiving but nothing is truly inert, is it?

They tend to grind to sand and dust or

compress into jeweled beauty, while from your

rough palms, pocked with labored indentations,

seeds sprout, deer fall, and a slow burn kindles.

High Desert Matisse by Charlene Moskal

Light comes across

incandescent as a slow smile

that waits for a reply

or sometimes, after the rain,

neon bright bouncing off a tin roof.

When the sun has spent itself,

voluptuous, brilliant,

in that almost-after-dusk time

when there are no shadows,

the mountain flattens

grows ghost pale and shy

wrapped in grey silk.

Her smoke-blue shawl

falls slowly from her shoulders

leaving her naked and black.

The illusion, strong as paper cutouts –

Matisse in the high desert-

has conquered the ridges and cutbacks

ironed the surprises to remind me

light is the secret of our coming and going.

Triangled by Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner

Triangled by Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner

Every Prayer by Lucia Galloway


How can I write a poem this day,

so many trees, homes, stores in California burning?

The Times runs photos of red-orange skies,

my car in the driveway’s mantled with ash

just yesterday someone’s dwelling place.

The foothill trails, once crowded, now closed,

unmasked hikers not the only danger.

What can I give to the neighbors forced to flee

the mountain retreat in their weekend camper

while I brood, lethargic, in suburbia? Stanger.


From the foothill trail I once loved to walk, let me offer:

a litany from sprigs of ceanothus brushing against my leg

a secret from the deer appearing on a mid-distant slope

a water-color painting from the sycamore, its trunk splotched

ochre, cream, khaki, and tan

a poem from the eucalyptus with six slender trunks

from a single root—

this tree-bouquet of scents, its choruses of wind and wing.


May something yet be refuge, comfort, beauty, peace.

May devastation be temporal for all things living.

May there be prayers enough for every creature:

human, animal, insect, bird. For every sprig and shrub,

each trunk and branch. May it be so.

Firestorm by Shantha Bunyan

the storm is rolling in now | you can almost taste the | electricity in the air | every hair on your body |

rising just before the wind | with the feeling | that something enormous is coming |

smoke in the sky, | ash raining down | this is no ordinary storm |

temperatures plunging, | fires on the horizon | approaching as fast as can burn |

the animals have scattered | the people are restless, gathered | preparing for the | impending unknown |

snow mixed with ash | may it dampen the flames | in a country filled with kindling | detritus on the

forest floor | doused in the kerosene | of temperatures climbing around the globe |

this has been coming | it’s no surprise | but since it’s here we find | we are woefully unprepared |

now that | fire has become a season |

Flowers by Alejandra Moral

Flowers by Alejandra Moral

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