The tree with the lights in it.

03 December 2019


A series of controlled burn-offs on the Central Coast
have coincided with unusual weather patterns.

A blanket of smoke descends upon the Northern Beaches.

I awake at midnight with a sore throat,
thinking of Southern California.

The night I drove north as if possessed
along the Glendale Freeway to La CaƱada Flintridge
having seen footage of the area engulfed in flames
on the evening news.

That segment of California State Route 2 is
eight slithering lanes of freeway
climbing up from Echo Park to the Crescenta Valley
on this occasion eerily devoid of traffic
just hours after the evening rush.

The few cars I encountered speedily darted and wove around me
until shooting off around a bend into darkness.

The highway conveyor belt drawing me ever closer
to the UFO-like glow atop the foothills ahead.

The air quality worsened as I exited the freeway
and detoured around roadblocked suburban streets.
Smoke seeping through the car vents
giving palpability to the images I’d seen on TV.

The evacuation zone was still expanding
as the fire tore across the Angeles National Forest
devouring acre after acre of overgrown brush
before plummeting into suburbia.

Power was out in several areas.
Blackened street lights added to the
post-apocalyptic feel of the place
as I slowly approached the smoke plume.

Fire engines and news vans lined the streets.
I could drive no further.

The raging Station Fire ahead was barricaded like a crime scene.

I suddenly felt deeply ashamed to have entered
a disaster area simply to gawk.

I was a tourist on a Star Tour hoping the proximity to fame
would make my own life less ordinary.
That witnessing catastrophe would infuse my quiet existence
with a degree of danger and excitement.

I turned off the AM radio
made a U-turn
and began the drive back home.