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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