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Everything Is on Fire

by Sebastián Hasani Páramo

Even if the fire was set
before us,

like a spell to vanquish
the patriarch, could we learn

to love its ashes & ruins?
Couldn’t that mean

we’re free to vulture
over the scorched earth?

Thank you, Mother.
Thank you, Father.

All the bridges are flames.

Isn’t it time they
told us a story?

Once upon a time,
we watched an inferno dance

& we saged the house
& we lay in the yard

& we saw the meteors
hot in the sky

& that’s how we learned
God wrote love long ago

during the Big Bang.
He let the stardust explode

& folded the dust inside
a sheet of paper.

Set it free like a plane,
zipping through stars.

Its wings flickering
with the scent of burning.

I wrote “Everything is on Fire” during a two week poem-a-day challenge last year. I’d just finished a draft of my first book, but knew it was still missing a few poems. The challenge gave me an opportunity to explore themes that I felt still needed exploring. My work-in-progress is called Portrait of Us Burning and uses “portraits” to illustrate a picture of a family falling apart and trying to hold it together. The pandemic, my book, forest fires, climate change, and the “This is Fine” meme were all on my mind when I wrote this poem. The initial draft of this poem was titled “We Are Fine,” but I wanted to interrogate what the flames signify and where they are taking the poem. The “patriarchy” refers to a complex father figure that frequently appears in the collection. Personally, I’m fascinated with flames and love the idea of accepting fire as part of the ritual of renewal or reframing. Mostly, I wanted to see if I could make the fire something that isn’t so terrifying, but more meditative and transcendent.

Sebastián Hasani Páramo is a CantoMundo Fellow. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, Crazyhorse, Salamander, TriQuarterly, The Missouri Review, and Blackbird, among others. He is the founding editor of THE BOILER and poetry editor for Deep Vellum and has received scholarships and awards from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center. Páramo holds a PhD in English and creative writing at the University of North Texas and will be the 2021 Jesse H. Jones Fellow through the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program, sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters.