The rim of the void
Circled the vent hole
With aerated rock; light
From where sulphurous gas
Spewed out its toxic breath,
On goat herds and shielings,
Wharves and warehouses.

Ochre red slopes,
Where old sandstones
Melted and mixed
In slumped flows of puthering lava…
Layer on layer on layer,
Pillows and mounds, one on next
Candy floss striations.

Decades on, pilgrims
Step still tentatively;
Rough trails,
Snake above the abyss
Children shriek with
Pyroclastic fear, yet
The crater lies inert;

Erupting only with spurge and agave,
And rocks arranged
By the hardier explorer
Into timeless signs:
“Maria y Manu”
“Hot Stuff”
And a giant, lithic, cock.

Dust devil

Igneous dust and grit,
Whorled and whipped into shape
By offshore breeze
And this scrubby patch
Of unbuilt pre-development –

The roads laid out;
Kerbs positioned;
Lines painted on
Chin-smooth asphalt
Waiting for the money.

Shoppers carry on as normal.
One in a shawl-cum-kaftan
Thing, with cork-soled mules, wheels
A misbehaving trolley;
Revels through an air-con curtain:

Relief. Sun drums incessantly,
Whitewashed walls reflect,
Azure plunge pools refract,
As these dust Gods dance and snake
Below the temple of the volcano

Ignored, as we flow
Towards oblivion.


For months it was said
The land rumbled and creaked –
The deep reverberations
A stomach unfed, fretful.
The priest, brim-full with fear and piety
Seeking mercy, or sanctuary –
Scrambled up the crackled crest
Over sharp black rock
Edged with knives, devoid of life
Pock-marked with worm holes
From venting gas years past
In hemp and rope sandals
A hessian smock, scrabbling
To witness… what?
The Lord himself, surely
Rip apart the land
Pull it, lever it, break it, wrench it
Smash it. Smash his creation,
Swallowing farms, feasting on livestock
And the fields themselves
And then –
Volcán came.
The breath of the Devil
The spittle; the fume; the bile
An inferno bursting like pus
Villages lost, eaten whole, or throttled;
New rivers made –
Ash, smoke, dust, flowing fire;
Endless fire, endless.
One man did not run;
He beat back the bubbling river
With a bucket, and a straw shoe;
Three hundred years hence,
They will not forget, surely
What happened here –
What he witnessed –
From this chimneyed eyrie
Soot-pasted, choking,
The breath of a Cuban,
Dry, acrid, pungent, dusty;
Yet now they play like kids
Round – in! – the crater
Mark it with stones, and crosses
Build their cairns; make their names with rocks
Oblivious it seems
To the dormant power
The impassive evil
That lies here, sleeping.