Paul Brooke

Paul Brooke is the author of six books including Light and Matter, Meditations on Egrets and Arm Wrestling at the Iowa State Fair. His poems have appeared in journals such as The North American Review, The Antioch Review and Scientific American (forthcoming).

“Svartifoss” by Paul Brooke


The trauma, ancient and antediluvian,
swept basalt lava out in a wide plain.

Hundreds of years passed but every day
lava flows from Seljalandsfoss to Brúarfoss:

newlyweds fight over finances, slam doors;
a woman vents at a child over nothing;

a driver erupts at a tourist for slowing;
a couple ruptures and releases cruel letters.

The accumulation of casualties posits untold
stone cairns, stacked and pointing south,

while the lava fields, jagged and honed
like filet knives, slowly become overgrown

by a thick mat of moss. It rounds the edges
and dulls the threat. When anger cools

and minds quiet, can we see the damage,
the catastrophic cost? People walk amongst

this atoll of rocks; comment on the ugly
toll of condemnation and isolation,

willows twisted and thrashed by nasty winds.