ISLAS ENCANTADAS


(In Darwin’s Galapagos)

 

A ghost volcanic blast

unlocks the surface of a whitecapped

dolphin sea.  Two hundred necklaced islets

rise in time-lapsed spree

 

uplifted by a molten platform

on the ocean floor – erupt, go dark,

collapse upon themselves; acquire

green mantles and new bursts of seeds;

 

appear to die then leap to life again,

repeated resurrections born of

warm spring rains.


Sailing due east in geologic time

they make perhaps an inch a year

towards trenched submersion while new

cones rear up behind them,

 

emblems of an earth alive. 

Those first ashore (a churchly mission

bearing crosses) thought surely they had

entered hell:  sheer lava cliffs, dark

 

glistening spews, crevasse-cut flats

crawling with dragons,

crimson crabs, huge

blue-gaze tortoises that tractored

sandy trails.  They had keen sight

for faith but none for miracles. 

Slate-colored lizards that sneezed salt

 

to cleanse their blood; tall dandelion trees

that sent trapped water down to shade below;

balloon-necked birds with razor bills

that floated near their cowls – all blindly

 

or with motions meant to exorcise

flew by.  Blinkered by unexamined choice

they saw masked evil in flycatchers

that lighted on one’s hand -- malevolence

in flowers turned yellow, adapted to

the menu of the Islands’ bee.

Between the fumaroles, a differently

 

invested eye might just have glimpsed

the symphony of rise and fall

embodied in these views –

in finches custom-tailored

 

to their missions in such

merciless terrain or tufa cauldrons

simmering with life, all dancing

 

to a metronome whose ticks  

dwarf human minds.  Still under orthodox attack –

reflexive horror at a streaming

which admits no charity and shows

 

a face more like remorseless

storm surge than accustomed gods –

that vision rests on stepwise method

shaken free of rote. Conditional

 

as turtle eggs or seal pups

we reprise his browned

laconic notes.



What Rough Beast, July 5, 2019