In the wake of Sonoma County’s horrific firestorms, a poem

by | Nov 4, 2017 | Musings, Poetry | 16 comments

Here’s a poem I’m crafting about the firestorms that blazed through Sonoma County in October. The fires are now all 100 percent contained, but the damage is massive and recovery will be a long process.

to go on

to go on as rain
overdue, patters ash
driveways lead
flames fizzle
fire trucks follow
lonesome roads

to go on as chimneys
naked, stand alone
rubber duckies rest
on burned-out cars
twisted wheels whir
reporters pack up
looking for the next
big story

to go on as evacuees
haunted, remember
fists pounding
flames engulfing
animals shrieking
houses exploding
pages, charred, floating
through noxious air

to go on as husbands
long for wives, children
mourn parents, sisters
console brothers, babes
cry for elders, families
in thousands
reel, no longer

to go on as survivors
dazed, open wallets, search
closets, buy food
for the ravaged,
neighbors hug neighbors
grateful for what was
what is lost forever
what remains


Laura McHale Holland
Nov. 4, 2017


How does this poem affect you? Have you lived through firestorms or something else that devastated large portions of your community? Did you write about it? How did you and your neighbors recover?


Photo of charred area from Marketwatch

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  1. Holly Whitman

    So poignant. We have fires in our area too often. A few years ago many homes were lost, but thankfully, no lives were lost. It was a terrible time. Sonoma County experienced far worse. I love that area and am so saddened that his happened. It’s horrible. I am glad your Home escaped this devastation, although I know the surrounding area was ravaged. Prayers for you and your neighbors as the recovery process begins. Hugs.

  2. mary

    Good summation of the lasting devastation. The last few lines are important, that people are reaching out. I hope everyone is reached and not left alone in the aftermath.

  3. Jennifer Viereck

    This is a wonderful poem, Laura, and really speaks to the feelings the fires evoked in me as well.
    I experienced the Oakland fire in the late 80s, unable to get to my young son on the far side, and know that initial panic of opening the door to black skies in midafternoon, of fragile charred relics swirling above in the wind. But it was nothing like what went on and on this year.
    While living in the vast open desert of Death Valley, one project was making collages of scraps of paper I found stuck on bushes or buried in the sand while out walking. Christmas cards, doctors records, recipes, utility bills. Many had survived a particular house fire, a house full of books. Their charred edges and crisp fragile images and cut off paragraphs fascinated me.

  4. Jim Hance

    What a wonderful and touching poem, Laura. Thank you for keeping these people in our hearts as the community comes together to rebuild ❤️❤️

  5. Paige Adams Strickland

    I’ve been fortunate and have not gone through this kind of disaster at this level. I probably would write about it if I had.

  6. Laura

    Thank you, dear Holly. I know San Francisco itself and the North Bay, too, will always have a place in your heart.

  7. Laura

    I sincerely hope so, too, Mary. I wish we could do something for everyone who is suffering from this right now.

  8. Laura

    Thank you for sharing your experiences here, Jennifer. Your vivid descriptions resonate. To not be able to reach your son during a conflagration, as well as finding all those remnants in the desert, stir up strong emotions.

  9. Laura

    Thank you, Jim! Keeping them in our hearts is a big thing; we’ll remember to pay attention and give what we can.

  10. Laura

    Thanks, Paige. I’m glad you haven’t experienced something like this. I expect if you had, your writing would be eloquent.

  11. PH Garrett

    Laura, your poem says it all, with such insight and feeling. It was compelling to read. I like the way it tells the harsh truth but brings us together. Hugs, Patrice

  12. Laura

    Thank you, dear Patrice. I think our community’s coming together in many ways through this crisis.

  13. Pamela Fender

    Dear Laura,
    Your poem tears at my heart.
    We were fortunate to have escaped the devastation that so many experienced.
    I lost my home in the 1994 earthquake in L.A., but nothing compared to this.
    I hope you submitted your poem to our Poetry Anthology. No doubt it will be accepted.
    I submitted a short poem about the fires.
    Thank you for always expressing yourself so eloquently, Laura.
    Keep writing; I’ll keep reading.

  14. Laura

    Thank you, Pamela, for taking the time to stop by and leave such an encouraging comment. I did submit the poem to the anthology.I expect the section having to do with the fire will be powerful. I look forward to reading your poem, too.

  15. Beth Ann

    Your poem, “to go on,” is powerful. With so few words you evoke vivid images and deep feelings. I love the rhythm and simplicity of each line and how they manage, collectively, to cover so much emotional ground. Your poetry astounds and inspires me.

  16. Laura

    Thank you, Beth! I think I’ll print out your comment and keep it nearby for encouragement during times when the words aren’t flowing.

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