"The gods didn't warn us": a poem about the B.C. wildfires

As flames continue to consume forests and towns in her home province, we asked one of Canada’s most respected and prolific poets to write about fire. Lorna Crozier’s poem is called “The Gods Don’t Tell Us Everything.”
A wildfire burns on a mountain in the distance, east of Cache Creek, B.C., in the early morning hours of Monday July 10, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) (Canadian Press)

This summer, wildfires in interior British Columbia have forced thousands of people to flee as fires threaten or destroy their homes and communities.

Many of us are watching from a distance, as events unfold in the B.C. fire zone. The distance is smaller for Lorna Crozier, who was tending her garden in North Saanich, B.C. when we called her this week; yet fire was front of mind. 

She is a prolific poet, an author, and a professor emerita at the University of Victoria.  She is also a frequent guest on The Sunday Edition. We asked her to write a poem for us about our relationship with fire. 


By Lorna Crozier

This great gift they gave us to keep us warm
and push away the night—well, the gods
don't tell us everything.

Fire outruns the swiftest horse, leaps
over rivers, without a ladder
climbs hand over hand into the sky.
But even from that height its smoke  
must make it blind.

It sees no difference between barren hills
and towns, deadfall and living green,
stones and animals. (What happens to the animals
when the woods are burning—deer, cougar, marmot, hare?)
Birds like pine cones explode from the trees.

Many caught inside the blaze
insist it has lungs (they can hear it breathing),
a belly that's never full, a quickness of the brain
they work days and nights to outwit, but no one claims
it has a heart. The gods didn't warn us

fire has no heart.

Lorna Crozier is a poet and the author of the collection The Wrong Cat. (Chris Hancock Donaldson)

Click 'listen' above to hear Lorna Crozier introduce and read her poem, 'The Gods Don't Tell Us Everything.'


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