They go where no one else wants to – or could.
Heat enough to melt a television set.
But they go because there is flame to be stopped,
Smoke to be capped,
Threats to be canceled.
Duty to be questioned only by those with the leisure to do so,
Theirs is but to render selfless service,
Dictated by practical logic – strange-sounding, certainly.
Out on the scene – all business, efficient and civil, stripped bare.
They speak in simple, direct words:
“I stomped that one out, old-fashioned style.”
“When did you start?”
Pause… “Been here since 6:00AM.”
Another pause… because it’s 7 in the evening.
“Yeah, go ahead, head home.”
No thanks required, not at this level;
Plenty of time for that later, no need to clutter up dispatches.
Besides, no one’s hunting for glory,
The only search is for an end to disaster.
Mercifully abated in the wee hours,
White plumes newly occupy airspace
Our sentinel mountain always sends us generous gusts,
Much-maligned, though a great cleanser.
But there, on that day, a bane – a not-so-gentle zephyr of destruction.
Today, air unmoving, still with the power to incinerate at will.
Sober, profound thought – our valley:
Though touched by St. Helens’ generic endowment in century past,
Really enjoys pacific treatment.
True, seeming violence delivered by whipping winds,
But our seasoned trees and faces know of it
With clockwork regularity.
Raw threats though, of flame and smoke,
Coerce us to contemplate:
What if this is the time,
The time of the unthinkable?
For those whose time it indeed was,
With loss of home and base,
It may be little compensation, but know:
You have entered the global community
Of those sufferers of loss,
Never to be forgotten
Or dismissed as mere statistics.
Because numbers add up, and sums matter –
A universal scorecard.
If docile stock and innocent pups perished,
Hats off, mourn with respect.
If fighters persist, though fatigued and taxed,
Salutes shall erupt, and further support will surely come,
In order to make the tragedy as neutral as possible.
And the land itself – its’ sacredness must remain inviolate.
Never minimize the collective loss:
The embattled trees, the characteristic fields, the innocent animals,
Or isolate it in stark financial terms.
To meet the fiery lines full on,
Sincere in their one purpose:
To appear at a time of crisis
And then disappear when the land once more calms to its’ rebuilding.
Grandeur and beauty, more precious than we thought,
A great land imperiled, yet saved
By the very species who imperiled it.
Thanks, thanks, thanks,
That such decency might yet persist and prevail
– Brian Paul Bach
August 16, 2012
©2012 by Brian Paul Bach