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Basalt

By John I. Blair

In January, 1953,
I found this dark stone
On the California shore
Amid the wrack and shells
Where chill Pacific surf rushed in
And the tumbled coastal range
Seemed to all but vibrate.

It was my first sight of the sea;
All the beach was built of cobbles,
Black as night,
A rough, funereal rim
To an inconstant continent
Accreted by apocalyptic
Collisions in slow motion.

I donít know if this basalt
Was born of ancient agonies
Far out in the ocean
On some then-tropic isle
Or more recent gouts of lava
Jetted cataclysmically
From grinding, drifting plates.

All I saw at not-quite-twelve:
A preternaturally smooth
And silent rock, absorbent of all light,
That might take and shelter secrets,
Even mine. I pocketed the thing,
Still wet from surf, smelling
Of kelp, sticky with foam.

And now, another century,
I keep it at my desk,
Holding it from time to time
To feel the coolness, hardness,
Indifference to me, or life,
Gaiaís heart exposed
Here in my warm and human hand.

©2009 John I. Blair


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