The Lifeboat


The Lifeboat

For and After Elizabeth Bishop

As you all know, tonight

a new volcano has erupted.

Although it is a cold evening

hot ash creeps down its uneven orifice

hardening what was once a loved, a celebrated hill

into unbreathing slopes of breast.

It was cold and windy, scarcely the day, yet

it was the hour when night makes the mountains lament.

So as from a magician’s midnight sleeve

all heaven and earth

made love to itself, wailing darkness.

Dead birds fell, but no one had seen them fly.

New fireborn land now lies in water,

Half squatter, half tenant (no rent),

it is coast and its creator.

It makes park first and the shaking Aspen

leaves are eyelids, lying and lifting.

Where there were once too many waterfalls—

the crowded streams so tiresome, always shrieking!—

land tries to build a harbor, withdrawing

water to still the falls explosions on the rocks.

Instead, it walls off a swimming-pool where

Inside the water lies perfectly flat.

Of course I may be remembering it all wrong.

Remembering, say, the Strait of Belle Isle or

Rio de Janeiro, with its stray cemeteries and children.

Are those of you seated in the back able to get

A good enough view of the volcano?

You should be seeing eyeless storm roam an uneasy sky, ash sinking above

endless and flooded above.

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