18 February 2009

Stuart Dybek

[from Stuart Dybek's Streets in Their Own Ink, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004]

The Volcano

It rose from an industrial wasteland
at the end of the block
and loomed over the neighborhood,
but only at night were its true dimensions
visible: a mountain of darkness,
its cone consumed from within
like a coal, porous with seismic tunnels
leaking searchlights, magma stoked
behind blackened, vandalized windows,
the night shift in the caldera
burning off spirit in updrafts
of sparks, the smudged moon a cinder
adrift in plumes of chimney smaze.
To those below, born in its shadow,
ash was the natural smell of air.
They thought its tremors were their own
suppressed emotions, its molten
eruptions the lust night drew
from their bodies. They never noticed,
come morning, how they'd been recast
going about their daily routines:
a butcher, his cleaver hacked
into igneous lamb; an old babushka
who'd stooped to pick fairy rings
on her way to mass. There,
a woman hanging stone sheets;
here, a man caught in the flow
just as he'd raised a hand
to strike his son
or brush the hair from his eyes.

Streets in Their Own Ink: Poems

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