The floodwaters came silently to McCarthy that night. It wasn’t dark, it was summer. But the smoke and ash in the air made a sort of murky dusk. Trapped in ice for millennia, the floodwater was ancient and alive.

Thawed glacial water quietly filled the old mineshaft, lapping over the buried bones of a miner, loosening the discarded jaw of a caribou. In the soft sponge of tundra, ancient bacteria found new life. The dead began to rebuild.


She smelled it first; fumes of rubber growing soft with heat. Coming around the bend she saw it, orange licking at trees, grey plumes. Choking, she downshifted to a stop. Tires melting into the newly paved Parks.

Ground to a bumpy halt she could hear it: a deafening roar. She looked back at the bed of the truck stacked with food & supplies. No getting to Fairbanks tonight: not by land, not by air, not by river.


We sipped the smoke like we sipped our first beer. Chewed the air like warm muktuk. Couldn’t see, couldn’t think. Everything dimmed. Stumbling in the way to the outhouse, dodging birds falling with a dull thud.

Tripping near the gasping mama moose and her calf wheezing on the lawn, Scaring the garden lynx trying to drag the mother away. Darkness worse than winter.


The legislature disappeared with the sinkhole just after the first gavel. The void it left was so impenetrably deep it swallowed all sound, all light. The chasm sucked in sound from over a mile away, leaving a zone of deafening quiet.

Remaining parts of government split into factions; one believing the veto would have been overturned, one acting as if it had not. No one ever did get their PFD.

The original version of this poem was a tweet thread by @shugg1elee. Tweet us what you have to say @OnFireInAK or email us.

Cover photo by Dierdre Coval