In Answer to Fire

By Maya Khosla

August 13, 2018

In Answer to Fire

For a long time, we could not go back. But once we were done averting our eyes, once we had mourned and banished all smoldering thoughts about the tribe of blackened trees replacing the known world for now and another season, and the last long fingers of smoke were ushered out by wind, a ticking began. No one had seen them arriving in such immense numbers, but the birds were neither lost nor passing through. They were simply linked tight to necessity. To the newborn scents of green under ash and rain, to the promise of white fruits, proteins and other riches concealed by bark.

So were the ways of ancestors who began their journeys as specks in the distance, some fifty thousand years ago or more. They rode miles of smoky gold along a known line of hunger, grew closer and closer. The rufous beat of instinct worked a migration upstream against the flow of smoke, into the source and its multiple treasures.

I can see one new arrival. He preens his dusk-and-opal plumage. Now others tap like a knock on the door, whose answer is advice provided by eons, long as genetic fibers coiled in every cell— beak and bone, muscle and shiny eye. Each is awake to the growth and abundance soon to follow. Each will grow with the diligence of all known colors unfurling from the soil’s chocolatey darkness, from the trees re-greening come spring, from the blackness.

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