Bitterroot Valley, August 2000 by Judith Waller Carroll

Bitterroot Valley, August 2000

We’d been watchful all summer,
our teenage son’s behavior as out of control
as the fire that burned closer each day,
sparks flying into the yard like fireflies,
helicopters with dangling buckets
hovering over our pond.

We suspected it was drugs
that swept our gentle boy into a fury
we were powerless to quell,
the fundamentals of parenting
that worked for our daughter
as useless as one diagnosis after another
of A.D.D. or just plain crazy.
Meanwhile, the flames marched forward.

I piled treasured photos, my father’s old books,
boxes of important papers
into the van, but you refused to leave,
stationed on the roof with the garden hose,
desperate to save what you could.

by Judith Waller Carroll

Editor’s Note: The heart of this poem lies in its extended metaphor. The emotional close is something every parent can understand.

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