Santa Clara & Elsewhere Before the Fires


Chaos moved
forward to other fields, leaving
shock, despair, fear and dead-
ended nerves.

Where are those who disappear
in flames; souls of smoke rise
higher than prayers can reach.

In my abandoned pulpit mute
preaching clangs an empty
note.  God lives for me, dies
for another, lives again again
again we are placed upon the pile
overlooking destruction, speechless.

And for the most part our heralds
have remained speechless


clueless of how to handle a story
that cannot call a clarion bleat,
cannot wrench fear-filled sheep.

‘Tis horror upon horror, terribly
sorry, but it’s not politically charged.

Slowly past the carnage drives
one who knows what must be done;
who does what one must do.


It’s Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub.  Write anything that can conceivably be considered poetry, link it to the post, and then read and respond to others posted in the blog.

I would like real, thoughtful feedback on this poem.

31 thoughts on “Santa Clara & Elsewhere Before the Fires

  1. You have a significant voice in this, Charley. The end-words are strong and the structure helps to press you point. (Could I offer a small suggestion? I would remove the commas after speechless & mindless – you have given them a strong position in the structure already.) The final stanza is a reminder of how painfully difficult leadership can be. I think the 3rd stanza is the most powerful for this reader – the mute pulpit, the clanging alusion to I Cor. 13. Exceptionally well done!


  2. Powerful piece. Striking visuals in “souls of smoke rise higher than prayers can reach,” and thought-provoking insights from “heralds” through “charged.” Then the final lines bring us back to the mail carrier doing their grim duty. A strong and well-rounded poem, my friend.


  3. I watched the fires on the west coast and wept. You bring a powerful and pitiful image in the second stanza. Unfortunately people who watch the tv news tend to listen more to the strident rather than to those who do what must be done. Excellent work.


  4. As far as “speechless” and “mindless” go, I don’t know what I would say and perhaps silence is best. However that does not mean it is mindless silence. Just some thoughts. I liked the video. It illustrated the devastation well.


    • Perhaps the fires simply had to persist and await a slow news day to warrant headline status. I strove to make this poem as politically neutral as possible. Perhaps in rewrite…. Thank you, Frank!


  5. What struck me about this poem was the way (how I read it anyway) you left God and the angels up there in the pulpit powerless and clueless, and probably indifferent, and the real picking up and carrying on with things is being done by ordinary people without any supernatural help, just common sense and compassion.


    • It often appears that way, doesn’t it? Perhaps I could’ve hinted at the divine agency directing the post man. Really, what has struck me is the incredible indifference directed towards this massive disaster. Maybe God holds back because we have lost our ability to cry out in anguish… only in petulance. Thank you for your thoughtful reading.


      • I don’t know. The number of voices raised in prayer (or at least that’s what they tweet) there’s a lot of praying going on. I’m not a believer so it doesn’t surprise me at all that there have been no miracles. I do enjoy seeing people helping others though.


  6. I just saw the story about the postal service employee who continued his route through the fire-ravaged neighborhoods that were his territory. Extremely touching how much it meant to those still there and especially for the 97 year old woman who was unable to evacuate when her neighbors took off. I don’t understand how she could have been left behind. I could feel your heart and passion in this write and I always admire those writers who can move me. Thank you for that.


    • You are welcome. I was moved by what I wrote in a way that I’ve not experienced but a few times. Finished writing, read over what I had written, and literally had my breath catch. Perhaps it wasn’t my writing so much as the reality I was writing about. I’m glad it reached you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Maybe silence stems from all the public sorrows that has been demanded. There has to be a way to ask why, or who for whom…
    I might have read a different narrative into your words, but I have reacted to the silence to the fires compared to the uproars of the floods….


  8. My thoughts come from the heart usually not the head but I think that is valid too. I feel numb for you. I cannot conceive such loss and devastation. The first stanza sums it up for me- Chaos moved
    forward to other fields, leaving
    shock, despair, fear and dead-
    ended nerves.
    It feels like we are just on one huge roller-coaster of chaos.
    Take care.


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