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2 poems by Toby Martinez de las Rivas

The Clearing

No one knows who we are or where we are going,

or what was in the first darkness,

or what will be in the second. Do you remember,

pa, cutting the clutter of thorns & weeds

at the old house, pulling the work-

sheds down in a shower of glass & white lath

& in between the drive & the boundary

we found a pump in its tracery

of iron flowers, then a few hours later

beneath the matted, leathery stems of blackberry,

the well & we pushed in the rotten

well cover & looked into the shining darkness;

into the water holding the light & the sky

was below us in the earth & we

were crowned in the sky of the earth?

Isaiah or the Psalms: the darkness is not darkness.

The Road Out

Do you remember the stubble-burning days

that this generation will never see?

Hawks on thermals peering into windrows

through a veil, torn in places,

the sun going dark at noon, smoke drifting

over the hundreds & the clouds?

The glow in the west each night like a city

burning beside a river, hawks

bounding through ash, gulls embonpoint

stabbing into the turmoil: sleek

& unflustered; proprietary; arrogant?

Do you remember the road

out between fields to the coast at Milford?

A flashing glance through the bars

of a gate; the knee-high lines of flame

advancing over scorched rings

of earth, dim figures – their faces wrapped

in cloth – touching the earth

w/ fire as if administering a blessing?

The smell of it being September, & forever?

Silent shape of a Vulcan spectral

in plumes of smoke over the headland?

Do I smell of the sea, yearning

inward from that blank line where it touches

the sky & the dead wait without names?


Toby Martinez de las Rivas’s books are Black Sun (2018) and Terror (2014), both from Faber & Faber.


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