Emilie Lygren

Defensible Space

I beg for rain—
who doesn’t these days
when grass fires
stand up fast as sight
under breath from sitting engines,
greased rags,
the whispering of stones.

My house is stucco-hewn,
a builder’s alchemy:
cement, sand, water, lime,
covering the wood,
hard and rippled,
unlikely to catch flame.

The trees are so far away I
have to walk for 26 seconds
out the door
before I can touch one.
Yes I counted, and it’s
why we moved here,

for space,
for cement and stucco,
for few plants,
             no matter how we love them,
all in hopes we won’t burn.

Do you see how easy it is,
how sometimes necessary?

Instead of running from threat
or even desire, to just

harden yourself,
paint something stiff
on the heart walls,
build a moat of asphalt
around your truer self,

step away from sparks, from fire,
             no matter how you love them,
better hard than burnt,
better stone than ash.



Emilie Lygren is a nonbinary poet and outdoor educator whose work emerges from the intersections between scientific observation and poetic wonder. Her first book of poetry, What We Were Born For, was chosen by the Young People’s Poet Laureate as the February 2022 Book Pick for the Poetry Foundation. She lives in California, where she wonders about oaks and teaches poetry in local classrooms.