is burnt-edged with tar
where the drooling sap was cooked in the forest fire
and yet the sequoia still lives, the fire
animating the tree’s seeds – there, at its roots,
the miniature giants begin un-
winding their three thousand years –
and the fire has split the tree’s base with this
dark vertical tear
in the seemingly impossible
girth, in the russet-red, roped wood
and there is a secret rekindling
of ants and wood-beetles
in its dark auditorium full
of within-earth sounds, the agendas of insects
and a merriment of carcasses remade –
the forest’s logic rewriting the living floor
with spores and saplings,
even within the sequoia’s aromatic, hollow trunk
that still sucks up
the deep groundwater (as the snows melt early now)
into its head of green clouds – above, rising,
the redwood-empire of overseeing
that, unseen, is thinning out
and this old mammoth, this red-vowel sequoia
among the congregation
with a black word in its mouth,
which might be thirst – the dry word of it, full of needles,
that fire loves
and that we are still learning

Jemma Borg trained as an evolutionary geneticist. Her first collection, The illuminated world, was published by Eyewear in 2014 and won the inaugural Fledgling Award. She won the Rialto/RSPB Nature and Place Competition in 2017.