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Just Stuff

Winds churn
Embers burn
Howl and whip
Grow and grip
Smoke spirals,
Coils, crashes
Rolls into itself and thrashes
….and over
….and over…

The heavens hold its breath
As black smoke
Twists and curls.
Angry, raging fires swirl,
Feast on dry brush
In acrid heat.
Blue-tipped tongues strike
With wanton precision
No rhyme, no reason
Just chaotic indecision

Strike here, then there,
Hopscotch, jump!
Jump, jump!
Burn, skip, burn, burn,
Back track
Stop. Here.
Begin again…

The Devil has come to town
And it's hungry.

When the demon has its fill
Of armchairs and china and books of
White knights and fairy tales,
Children's drawings, cherished keepsakes,
Great-great-great Grandma's Irish lace,
In the Aftermath
I am unglued and broken.

I walk among the rubble
Of what was once my home.
And force the edges of my Lips,
Dry and scabbed from Fire's kiss
To upwards turn,
An offer of assurance
To those who console
That I am okay, and yes, I do know.
It was just stuff.
That burned.

But, in the long and silent stretch of night
Different demons come to fight
And sleep resists
Except in fits
I toss and turn, and turn and toss
And beg for sleep to dull my thoughts…
It's in those lonely hours of night
I weep.
For loss.
For loss of ‘stuff'.


It was MY stuff.
My memories.
My milestones.
My treasures.
MY… Me.
I have lost part of me.

No matter what
Well-meaning people say.
That try to comfort loss away.
(And, yes! I'm blessed to wake each day.
But, still I grieve what's gone away.)
You were not

You were the bedding saved
For future grandkid's cribs.
The recipe for Tutu's sweet
Banana Bread.
The mug that I'd been given by
My mom, no longer here.
Her voice on a recording
Played to keep her near,
…Also, now, no longer here.

This spot, here, great grandma's gift,
Chairs with cushions, all hand-stitched.
Passed down from Mother to her child,
Now, just ash upon a pile.

The ghosts from my ‘just stuff'
Wrap around my neck and squeeze
I can't breathe.
I am suffocating.
This is all too much.
And I am not enough.

Panic and anxiety ensue,
Where to start? What to do?
I gulp deep breaths
Amid the rubble
Of what was once my life.

Smoke and soot seep into my skin,
So deep that no amount of scrubbing can remove
The acrid smell of Mother Nature's theft.

My lungs swell and burn, each breath
Filled of dark remains.
Gnat wings of ash, like demon flies,
Fill my senses,
Settle in my chest.
I'm reminded that everything-everything-will
Eventually become dust.

To all the things
I know that I have lost
I mourn you, and apologize
For you were not.

To all the things
I know not yet
that I have lost,
I honor you.
How do you say good-bye
To something you don't know has left?

And so, the grief continues
Until there comes a time
When reaching for “just stuff”
No longer here, resides.
An hour, day, a week, a year,
A decade… I don't know.
How long does it takes a person
To just let the ‘just stuff' go.

© Feb 13, 2019 K. Orian. All rights reserved.

On November 9th of 2018 we lost our home in the Woolsey Wildfires. It was months before I fully comprehended what had happened. Yes, we were absolutely blessed that our family and friends were safe. We held onto that, and onto each other, in the days after the fires. As people began to make their way, those who had not lost homes or possessions, tended to reassure those of us who had lost so much, that it was 'just stuff'. My 'just stuff' was a home filled with irreplaceable treasures going back countless generations, including our family bible. My 'just stuff' were tangible mementoes of the many milestones of our life. Again, we were very blessed that we were safe. But in the aftermath, I found myself cringing every time a well-meaning person dismissed our material losses as 'just stuff'. 'Just Stuff' is the love letter to all we lost.

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Just Stuff