Friday, February 17, 2012

The Eruption

While lying awake in the wee hours of this morning, trying to chase away anxious thoughts about my next day's work, I started writing this poem in my head. After I had repeated six or seven lines of it to myself, I resigned myself to the necessity of getting up and writing it out, lest I should forget what I had begun. What started out as a metaphor for something or other soon captivated me with the imagery of its literal meaning and the music in its lines of varying length.

I was ready to go to sleep after completing the first draft, complete with insertions, deletions, restorations, and an arrow indicating that one line was to be moved to a different spot. But then I resigned myself, again, to the necessity of making a fair copy so that I wouldn't forget how the two pages of scribble were supposed to look in their final form. After making this copy, with a few minor changes, I read it to myself aloud, and then read it again. Somehow, inexplicably, it had crossed the boundary between work-in-progress and finished work. For what it's worth:

The Eruption

First the quaking
Then the swelling of the earth
The opening of cracks and sinks
Then the smothering clouds of fume
And the killing caustic froths

Then the roaring and the shaking
Then the rising smokes
And the ashy snow
And the sanguinary glow at dawn and dusk

Then the blazing light
Then the deep-felt boom
Then the eardrum-splitting roar
Then the searing supersonic rush
Then the incandescent viscous gush

The lamb-like skipping mountains
The kid-like leaping plains
The tumbling stone
The flowing soil
The airless clouds of steam

The dying tremors
And the calm

Then the land found changed
The trees bare poles laid in rows
The valleys silted plains
The peaks bowed down
The shoreline stretched

The dust-dimmed sun and bloodied moon
The drifts of dust and ash
The slow return of green and game
The once more quiet earth

The deepening slumber
The last odd twitch
And the dream

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