(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 birds

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