Watch It Burn

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I have always watched fires burn.

As a child, playing with matches

Older, piling the wood in the grate better than my dad

Later as a circus performer until my knees got bad

I have always stopped and watched

Captured by the heat

And the flicker bittersweet.


Bruno Kelly (Reuters) Man Working in a Burning Tract of Amazon Aug 20 2019

The first time losing the Amazon made me cry

I was not yet thirteen

Working on a project on deforestation for science class

When ecology was just another course section to pass

Before anyone had ever said climate change to me

I learned about carbon

Which meant learning about grief



I learned to speak a more adult language to describe loss

And learning about carbon

Meant learning to look at the source not just the light

I got an A but my teacher told my mam I was flighty

He did not want my tears in his lab floor


Significant Fires in the Amazon Basin August 2019

Before that a man stood on the side of the road,

Holds up a sign that says the end of nigh

And we laugh as we go by

The first time I felt like that man was with a petition in my hand

On a city street, pleading with strangers for a cause

That was as worthy and it was lost.


Mount Leinster burning (South East Radio)

I was nine when I first walked through the aftermath of a bush fire

They called it a wild fire

But it was set to help domesticated sheep graze

Everyone in town knew who set the blaze

I tried learning words that meant the opposite of wild

From the dictionary, called it cultivated fire

When it burned again the next year


An aerial view of an area of land that has been scorched by fire in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, 20 August 2019
Rogerio Florentino (EPA-EFE)

Now whenever I try to write poems about the big picture

I end up with poems about my feelings

I cannot imagine the end of the world

But I remember being 13 crying onto my poster board

Filled with home printed photos of jungle canopies

And dictionary definitions of ecology

And greenhouse effects and smog

And I ran out of space eventually


Gorse fires in the Ox Mountains in Co Sligo. Photograph: Irish Air Corps

And we are running out of space so rapidly

Painting ourselves into a corner

Crawling on the floor to ignore the smoke

Shushing nosy neighbours as they start to choke.

I swear I’m not crying in the lab anymore

There’s just ash in my eyes.



‘Amazon burning: Brazil reports record surge in forest fires’ Al Jazeera

‘What started the Amazon fires? Brazilian president suggests NGOs, but gives no proof’ USA Today

‘Wildfires Rage Across Ireland’ Irish Times

‘Eco-Anxiety’ NaturallyOrla.com

1 comments on “Watch It Burn”

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