Driving nowhere, you discover these
Spires of basalt, and start to guess
Your way here did not lead through normal space.
You traveled here through metamorphoses
Of spirit, as deposits change through stress,
In increments impossible to trace.
As parts of you eroded by degrees
The remnant rose up in a wilderness
It did not comprehend, but could displace
Through the simple gesture which decrees
That monuments are needed to express
The absolute precision of a place.

The world arose this way, both suddenly
And in a sort of time that does not flow
Anywhere, but eddies in its course.
This outrageous rock appears to be
A splash of liquid frozen long ago
By an unimaginable force.
Pavement brought you here so you could see
Being dance with nothingness to slow
Music, stone as fossilized remorse,
Nature, meaningless and therefore free
By its inarticulance to show
How existence rises from its source.

Is it beautiful?  This hunk of raw
Mineral uplifted to the sky
As if it were a blessing or a curse?
Can we take this ancient metal claw
As a sort of talisman, or try
To decode its meaning in reverse?
Absent this one landmark that you saw
Accidentally, you would pass by
And call this spot no better and no worse
Than any other, and would miss the awe
You felt in contemplating a reply
To something so enormous and perverse.

What is the gigantic, that it tames us?
Does size alone impress us, or the tall?
The Ferris wheel you conquered as a child,
Skyscrapers you climbed, this age which claims us
As its specimens, that presence all
Feel behind the world, the constant wild
Force which by its consequences shames us:
Storms, this universe through which we fall.
All of these explain why you just smiled
At an old volcano: that it names us
As its witnesses, this sudden wall
Of magma cleaned and sharpened as if filed.

If even as you leave you are unsure
What you have seen, beyond a jagged blur,
Consider this uneasiness the main
Point of journeying to the obscure.
If you begin to question, or infer
A world which men dismiss, do not complain.
The strangeness of this landscape is a pure
Reminder that the lives we lead occur
In a way we cannot yet explain,
That by being normal we endure
Violence, and who we almost were
Signals to us from this rough terrain.

About the author

Stephen Lefebure has been published mostly west of the Mississippi, and in places that leave more than one color of mud on your boots.…

Read the full bio

Issue 05 · June 2009

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