Blame the Boy

Michael Zinkowski
Featured Image: Nocturnal Ceremonies © George L Stein 2018

—on the Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge, Summer of 2017

To have found the object of our anger,
seething as ancient acres burned, how
vindicated we felt. Blame the boy
who’d scorched the gorge with
a corner-store explosive. Blame

the boy who’d laughed at the flash
the bomb made, not the fury the sparks
passed along. Incited by the ash
on our cars, in our lungs, blame
the boy you told could do no wrong.

Demand years, decades of punishment.
Demand remorse: worse, wish for shame
the only way you know to get it. Most,
comfort yourself; the fires still blaze,
but we know enough to name the culprit.

Even in shackles, he’ll wear suit and tie
to trial. He’ll cry before the judge
brings down his gavel. But, with luck,
someone will object: what fires have you
started you never put out, even now

they smolder without you knowing?
What fires have you failed to start,
the stacked wood left in the cold?
Reach out your hands for his, shape them
so a cedar’s sapling fits inside instead.

Blame the boy, or blame the rest who
burn for the forest they’ll never get back.