the walls of his bedroom peeled back like skin
curled and brown. His own skin, untouched.
They say the fire burned all night, but only the walls—
the smallest flames, so persistent in their burning.
Even the hills here bleed beneath the soil.
Rumors are the mine on the other side of town
was shut down for lack of ore, more profitable
for the owner to seal the shaft and entomb
the seventeen immigrants below, their lungs
heavy with dust. Underground the smell of sagebrush
permeated the roots, leaving the workers’ last breaths
both sweet and pungent. That night lightning
split a tree, engulfed whole fields in flames.
Each town has its stories. It has always been this way,
their markers buried beneath layers of thickest mud.