Susan Cohen

Fire Season with Rolling Blackouts at the Bodega Bar & Grill

After a week of enforced night, 
light breaks over the pool table. 
A clack of cues to crack the silence.
All that was perishable is gone 
into two dumpsters out back. New, 
on a whiteboard behind the bar, 
these offerings: Pork belly, salmon,
short ribs, butterscotch pudding with 
or without whipped cream. Also,
Everything is free 
for fire survivors, first responders, 
or anyone who needs it to be.

Generosity is a poem tonight, 
the language of kindness to strangers 
and gratitude to the volunteers 
whose red engines screamed 
from the firehouse next door.
No one will argue bumper stickers,
wonder who arrived with gun racks 
or rainbow flags, attack a slogan 
on someone’s sweat-stained cap.
Just walking through the warped
doorway that never keeps the flies out 
is a celebration of survival, 

a free offer, a feast, a toast 
to the shared citizenship of flesh. 
Here’s to the live and kicking, 
those with hungers and with thirsts:
waitresses, barkeeps, cooks,
paying customers (or not), 
praying customers (or not), 
sooty cows in too-dry hills whose shit 
sustains the flies. Here’s to the frantic 
flies, to all of us powerless
while flames choose what to burn
in this raging democracy of fire.