Benjamin Balthaser Paradise

I heard today that Paradise is on fire
It's just a town in California, where
people drove in their cars to escape

what we imagine mountains can cure,
catarrh, offices, charred ends of days,
as if Paradise were the alternative to fire.

The pine trees of Paradise float like burning
paper even as the air freezes, the sun goes out:
families burn in cars as they race to escape

on a single highway that must have risen once
like a pale coil of dreams up the deciduous valley:
autumnal, reddining: the imagination of fire.

I remember the road trip to Lassen, past Paradise
and Butte Meadows, my parents older now, believing
that people can drive in their cars to escape.

Time moves so fast the fences and houses blur;
like a fire burning through your life, as though
we never existed: Paradise is on fire, burning
like the gas burning in cars we drove to escape.

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