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Poetry Friday: Wand Of Fire

Elias Butler

This week’s Poetry Friday segment speaks to the power of nature. Wand of Fire is an original poem by KNAU listener Jean Toner. She does a lot of hiking on the Colorado Plateau and has been witness to many beautiful and magical events. Today, Jean retells the story of seeing a giant bolt of lightning come out of nowhere to hit a lone tree. It was a powerful experience, reminding her to stay present in the moment so as not to miss something remarkable. 

JT: I am a first-time reader, so this is very exciting and a little scary. I spend a great deal of time walking the earth in northern Arizona. I am a hiker and a nature appreciator.

This is such a remarkable and unique confluence of ecosystems and geological diversity, and we are so fortunate to be here and walk among the red rocks, the canyons, the mesa lands, the high desert, the lava flows, the ponderosa forest, the upper altitudes, the aspen – I call them ‘aspen villages’. So, we are just so very fortunate to be able to be here.

It’s so changeable throughout the day. Every day I can go to the same place, and a different time of day is going to be very different. So, no place is ever the same twice.

Many of my poems are actually stories or descriptions of experiences in this very sacred landscape that is northern Arizona. Spending time in and on the landscape provides great possibilities for the serendipitous events or moments that occur. They happen so very often in this remarkable landscape that we are so fortunate to live within.

The following poem actually describes one of those moments. It was most unexpected and very magical, and I’m happy to share it.

Credit Jean Toner
Jean Toner

Wand of Fire

Monsoon evening, just past sunset

pink air spreads – moist and capturing

the dying light of an uncertain sky –

holding electric – late July.

Driving away from the ancients –

Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki–

over asphalt waves

toward Sunset Crater

and the highway home,

I round a curve,

start up the rise, then

lightning strikes into

a ponderosa sea -

smiting a single tree -

a shaft of fire

coiling around the core -

climbing toward the sky

like a sage wand

of reddened gold.

I remember the story -

burning bush on Mount Horeb

burning without dying

illuminating, sending prayers aloft . . .

I am no Moses,

but ending up at that place

at that split and sacred second –

is still searing

(Music: Morning’s Soft Glow, Tim Janis)

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at