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Paradise, Ca.

Today Paradise burnt down to the ground.
Smoke filled wind rushed across the plains.
People were burnt in their homes.
People were aflame in their cars.
Paradise burnt down to the ground.
The cemetery gravestones were black windows
And only the few marble angels remained white.

Once you could say you were from there,
A town to be proud of, everybody liked everybody,
The children held the hand of any grownup to cross
The center of town, all good followers of the lord.
The old railway station was now the concert hall
Which had a fiddle band on Saturdays.
Many found their retirement in the dry air
And wore floral printed clothing,
Greeting the grandkids at the bus stop
To keep them for a month.

Far from the wickedness of winter,
And the cities swelter of mixed tribes-
Far from the worry of integrated schools,
Far from images of the refugee cities
And the blown bodies of children
That you see on the nightly news;
Far from the immigrant squalor
In the history of their bloodline.
They came to Paradise, California
And built their walls to hide behind.

Long ago settlers founded this place
In the infusion of poverty, but now
Seems all the world wanted part of it,
Nestled in the canyons of wine country
“Let them find their own paradises”, they said,
This was theirs, each man his own militia,
Just like the book of freedoms said.
Each family minding their own ways
As any other news is just conspiracies.
They wore the red hats of fellowship.

What took revenge, what plague
Did the Hebrew prophet bring from his staff?
The land is dry and the sand is hot-

“Has God gone insane, to exile us so
To the backstreets of America?" they cried,
“Where the tides now rise and flood the streets
And where the mud slides like glaciers?
To where the tap water catches fire?
To the battered coast in the eye of the hurricane
Where a whole town drowns as if burnt down!
Do we go to the swamps filled with yellow slimes,
Or the shores with cancerous fish?
Do we go where tornadoes scrape a path for miles?
How did we disobey the word going down,
We who are cast away with the dark angels?”


Caesar speaks only of his greatness,
To the cheers of “all for one”
But the earthquakes and tremors go on.
The wizards throw their potions
In the sanctuary, but nothing changes.
The insurance companies find small print,
All offer thoughts and prayers.
The banks say credit is tight.
None open their homes to the citizens of Paradise
Who are scattered to the trailer parks
Collecting public aid without an address.
“Losers” declares the emperor.

Last few words: 
So many dead, so many burnt alive. Tens of thousands homeless. Another in a series of never-ending natural disasters. This time the emperor blamed the forest management. Paradise was not near any forest. They voted red to keep the damn government out of their lives, which will surely happen, as it has for all the other refugees of climate change.
Editing stage: 


YES! Mark; laser sharp! A zeitgeist, seething and a beautifully composed write of wonder and agony. You speak for legions with eloquence and rectitude. Riveting and perfect to the last resonate verse.
tears tears tears

Hi Mark,
it is one of your strongest, deeply touching poems.
For example, in your first stanza repetition, cadence, alliteration, imagery are so powerful that i wanted to take a break, stop reading just to breathe and to reread again. I see the black windows to the other side and white marble faces looking away from all the burning hell towards the black nothing of death that seems cool and inviting answer.
Great strong poem.


a good write inspired by the devastation caused by nature's angst turning Paradise into ruins

raj (sublime_ocean)

It means a lot to share and your responses are very much appreciated. I mean, why do we write, after all?

I did see in one of the drone images a cemetery there, all was charred black but for a few sculptures. What a stark picture in a place named Paradise, in the state of California, (from "Califia", the Spanish name for a mythical Paradise).

The line "disobey the word going down" is from Eddie Kendricks disco hit in the 80's
"goin down in smoke" about a flaming Armageddon "everybody's having tones of fun, who's going to take the blame? As we all go down in burning flames, burning flames." If you don't know it, check it out on youtube!

Right now the people of paradise are mostly living in makeshift shelters or tents. I can't imagine what they will have to go through rebuilding their lives. And what of the over 1000 still not accounted many were trapped the worst fire in the state's history. What a nightmare.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
ee cummings

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