by Christopher Raley
Hills that were California brown
and held rich in folds of laden heat
and gave a scrub oak’s worth of shade
against sun and dust;
hills that were fire black
and held rich on islands in devastated calm,
having given oaks to bare the brunt
and wilt yellow who were too close to flame
are hills that are newly grown,
regenerate who owes to no man scars of her rebirth—
how she labored under God’s slow contract
and pushed up nutrient earth
around those preserved on malnourished soil.
So oaks are umbrellaed dots on hillsides,
amber as a row of open graves.
Theirs is not decided what may yet be life or death.