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(Osorno, Puerto Varas)

Before the clouds closed

almost we saw the volcano

rising like Fuji

from turquoise waves.

Before the rains came

nearly we glimpsed that

improbable fusion

of stillness and consuming heat,

an ice thorn thrust

from the spine of the Andes

by the pressure of liquid stone

on immense gray glissades.

Before the moon set

it sparkled off swords of snow

shafting down, points towards

the sleeping harbor’s heart

where solitary couples

stumbled home along the costanera

as the wildness of Chile gathered

above them like thunderheads,

savage as pumas on hunting grounds,

piling up, dark with electric shocks

and the thin birdcall voices

of the disappeared.

We should kill them all,

our guide said later on a trek

through lupines and firebush

about tribes asserting lost rights,

they just cause trouble for

all of us -- todos Chile,

meaning iron Chile, that land

compressed and implacable

as glaciers which grind

in one direction, crushing

dissent. But condors

remained untroubled, cruising

indifferent thermals

on big-fingered spans.

Black scarabs mated on sun-warmed trails.

Lapwings too were indifferent,

patrolling their borders

with monochrome cries.

Before the clouds closed

almost we saw the volcano:

a mirage of perfection

above curled turquoise waves.

From Man Overboard: New and Selected Poems (2018)

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