The Malpais

Fire made the place, they say; a sign tells

Of rivers where rock coursed

Violently, glowing with insanity, the earth’s raging,

Then a cold skin formed, a mask to the world,

Stitched up the cataract, turned it aside

Till it poured itself away,

Air and cool went in and did their work, left

A barren throat, yawning out of the earth,

A place for bats and tongues of mossy shade.

***

Desert furnaces stood in the way, that and ghosts;

Acquaintances forgotten, or reformed but never the same,

Dips in the fraught mesh of time, all obstacles,

The crossing: intense, fatiguing, the winds

Scouring the hot little cabin, the dig

Of an ill-fitting seat belt in the neck, bad sleep,

Stories told and lost in the drone of the road,

Mile by mile, stitch by stitch, a pair of socks is born,

Reading, almonds, breakfast leftovers,

Inwardly, future plans and worries, dry ruminations,

Outside, the sun, urgent, interrogating the world.

***

Down in the womb of nothingness,

Something, unreachable as ever, draws you

Against cool rocks, pristine darkness,

And there is a special place in the cave

Where you can feel a magnetism,

As if drawing you in through the wall.

Anything you would give, anything,

To press your way between those atoms

And there see yourself, O creator of all.

***

Darkness is a drink, sweetest of liquors,

So drunkenly we gathered, distilled,

Let the light fall away like a loose shift,

Unsheathing ourselves

At the bourn of namelessness.

Separate yet attracted, like iron

To the deep quiet pole,

Ears pressed against the promised spot,

We breathed in stone-silence

With the ardor of a great yearning.

Suspension, perfection, boundlessness: birth repeats itself,

Time is discovered, congeals out, and with it, impatience.

Soon from the dark new voices resound: our own.

We rouse, take up again the weight of vision

And leave aside our dark-selves.

Clambering back towards the opening, it is like a white mouth

Devouring us into the light.

***

On the drive back, rain lies down hard and cools the earth.

We smile at the thunder, crank the windows wide.

My hand raised to the clouds, I feel with joy

The sting of tiny hail.

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