Christianne Balk - John Muir in the Sequoias

The winds tear through Merced
Canyon’s boulder-choked gorge,
stampedes muddy Moss Creek.
Hoofed catastropes! I’ll ride them all

crouched in these root-caves, surrounded
by the purple-tinged bark of buttressed
trunks in an unnamed grove. I’m tired
of tales of the ground’s cataclysmic quakes –

valleys bottomed out, pine trees tossed,
cedar, oak, gusts snapping massive limbs,
and the sudden rush of flame –
fires grazing these old,

close-packed leaves. Spinning, zigzagging,
burning back, surging, scorching every living
thing. Roaring updrafts filling branches filled
with cones. Ashes settling, smoking litter cooling

slowly. The air is dark with incense, charred
stumps, blackened hollows
and from this loud storm drifts
chestnut snow, down from the quiet

canopy, each fleck smaller than a grain
of flax, a cloud of hope released from tight
cone scales opened by the heat, flurries
of small, still, flat-winged Sequoia seeds.