Purgatory Chasm Poem

Purgatory Chasm Poem

The earth has done this to itself. It heaved its rock
pectoral as an animal will, a brute mating. It must have
known that it would suffer endlessly thereafter

as the sea, reverberating, raised one steely claw, a second
and another: water’s slow, erosive ritual.
That brand of love. The ghosts of razor grasses

watch from precipice and crevice, seething under
and above, swept hypnotized, as we are, by the shock
and aftershock of each anticipated wave. A minute.

A millennium. It’s hazy, but we’re here:
a study in repetition, breathing drowsy as the brume
we’re watching struggle to disperse, particle

by particle, dulled by the hauled-out act, the redundant
sea and earth. Hapless would-be gas!
It’s bound by laws of physics, laws of habit, laws

and love, love, love, the heat is overwhelming, but it isn’t
our affair. We’ve traveled southwards
from the city, so ill-at-ease en route; you held

a radiant lemonade, and I, the satisfactory radio
wired in my head: disjunctive music’s drowning out.
Slaking still and still devout, we make a pair

in judgment, cast it everywhere but in; we both
approved of, once, the vista, but now it’s harrowed out
The Sea Mist Inn, peopled the cliff with a pack

of naturalists. Wave on wave, this rite continues. Earth will not
recoil from sea, sea digs the deeper groove
we cut through others to inspect. A little closer.

Close. The rusted rail and sign suggest all
take precaution, be responsible. Shift in sediment
or squall can force the careless over easy—

and often does, we pray: the granting of the asked-for.
And look, I’ve grasped your hand. Spurred
by passion as before, I pull us near enough to drop

into the chasm, doubled over. An answer, an idea.
We want this want but turn, demure.
We are not alone. All the world is here.

Timothy Donnelly
first published in TriQuarterly, no. 110/111, Fall 2001
also from Twenty-Seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenzeit

Purgatory Chasm Poem

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