I spent the summer of 2016 traveling in southeast Asia, mostly in Penang, Malaysia and Bali, Indonesia. While there the Soberanes Fire broke out in Big Sur, California, subsequently 132,000 acres of some of the prettiest land I’ve ever seen. Many of my friends and loved ones were in danger, some lost their homes. I was keeping track each day while also spending my time in temples: Taoist and Buddhist temples, or meditating at the ocean’s edge. This poem came out of these meditations. It was published on the program for the Jesse Goodman presents/Henry Miller Library benefit concert featuring Sharon Van Etten, Al Jardine, Michael Nesbith and many other musicians who donated their time. We ended up raising over 40K for the victims of the fire. Here’s my poem:
Ash for Breakfast
We reconnect at the moon gate, like clouds colliding,
and use measuring sticks to plumb the death of solitude.
With no one watching,
we solder meaningful doubt.
Hello, it’s me hauling my load of dust toward Bethlehem
under a shelter of corrugated sky.
A fire cannot extinguish us, but when we sit on the ash heap,
we may need reminding.
How to break through? The fire burns everything
The smoke fogs our glasses, while condor nests go up
in summer flames. How do we save them?
Ash floats over the charcoal house we painted turquoise.
At the charred edge, a bobcat runs with a squirrel.
The progress of stars is humbling.
We bow to the spectral ash
we all of us
are in this universe.
Maria Garcia Teutsch
HMML Chair/Board President
Poster by Steven Erdman
author’s note: It is not lost on me that the fantastic German poet and essayist Durs Grünbein has a collection entitled: Ashes for Breakfast. I love this collection (highly recommend you read it) and want to give this devil his due for in part inspiring the title of my poem. I woke up each morning wondering what damage the fire had caused, so it was literally like having ashes for breakfast.