April 5, 2019 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Akin Lwada photo



Mark Williams




Where There’s Smoke



One day you’re walking inside your favorite forest when you have difficulty breathing. You step outside the trees where you can’t see the forest for the smoke, clouds of noxious smoke. No wonder you had difficulty breathing. No wonder you still do.  “Operator, the forest is on fire,” you say. “Which forest? How do you know it’s on fire?” the operator asks. “My favorite forest. Your favorite forest. Smoke, that’s why,” you explain. “Send someone. Hurry!” Seventeen firefighters arrive. With all seventeen fire hoses streaming, there are even more clouds of smoke. Sooty, noxious smoke. Even the firefighters in their masks are coughing. The more water, the more smoke. The more smoke, the more people, stepping from the forest. “Some fire,” a young woman says. “What fire?” an old man asks. “It’s only smoke. I haven’t seen fire. Have you seen fire?” the old man asks you and the young woman. You say, “Let’s ask the firefighters if they see fire.” And the first firefighter, who, even behind the mask, could pass for a square-jawed, no-nonsense soldier or a former FBI director, says so far he can only conclude there’s smoke, but he can’t rule out the possibility of fire. Cough, cough. You say, “You’ve got to be kidding.” The old man says, “What’d I tell you?” The young woman pulls a handkerchief from her purse, dampens it with water from the hose, and, holding the handkerchief over her mouth, starts walking. “Come on,” she says, turning to you and the old man, “we have sixteen more firefighters to go.”






Mark Williams

Mark Williams’s poems have appeared in The Hudson ReviewThe Southern ReviewRattleNimrodThe American Journal of PoetryJokes Review, and New Ohio Review online.  This year, his poems in response to the Trump administration have appeared in Tuck MagazinePoets Reading the News, and Writers Resist.  He wrote his poetry chapbook, Happiness, during the Obama years.

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