photo above by Joshua Dunford

by Nicole Nixen

Every summer the wildfires come and go.
The burn from the fires wafts south into the desert metropolis.
The effects of the smoke make me feel more fatigued each day.
Each morning I feel the heat permeating through the kitchen window.
Yet still I sip on a piping hot cup of coffee to calm my throat.

The commute into work, which was once encircled by mountains in every direction,
Now reveals a stronger hue of brown static clouds over the city.
The mountains themselves now blend into the sky.
What appear to be cotton thin clouds is actually haze.
Haze from fires burning miles and miles away in another micro-climate.
Haze that extends from lands of pines and greenery not found in the desert.
The brown pollution cloud which has now married with the haze of the fires clings
fervently to the atmosphere.

By high noon, the heat is enveloping the city, ripening the potency of pollution and haze.
Walking through the city center as an escape from the over air-conditioned chill of my workplace, the sky looks deceptively clear from inside the pollution cloud.
I see the smokers standing outside the building, and I wonder how they do it?
How do they voluntarily inhale the stuff that is slowly sure to kill us all.
I then feel the dull ache in my lungs and wonder whether secondhand cigarette smoke matters anymore.

Back inside, I splash cool water on my face and neck to adjust to the air conditioning.
In a few hours, I’ll be back outside again exposing myself to the heat, smoke and dirt.
When I head back to my little patch of the world and lock myself indoors, I can wave goodbye to the brown pollution cloud and haze.
At least for a few hours, until I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.