Landscape’s Memory

Recently it’s struck me that human beings and animals aren’t the only ones with a memory. If there can be such a thing as inorganic memories, then surely some landscapes are proof that there’s a kind of memory in stone, shale, sand, and even soil… though perhaps not! Still, at least the scientists, seismologists and climatologists who dig into the earth’s crust to make sense of the past can read a marvellous sort of archive that serves a similar function. I find it consoling to think that when we’re all, as the song says, “dust in the wind”, there will remain parts of us in the composition of the earth that now we walk on.

Memory  

Somewhere in the hemispheres’ tight folds,
In the cavernous enormity of inner space:
Certainty, bedrock.

Above it, a warm inland sea,
Uncharted reefs, shoals shifting in unseen currents stoked
By the blazing core;
And over these again, the stratigraphic record
Of shale & soil. And of sacred soul—
Lost foot- and fingerprints, frond and feather-prints,
Fossils ossified, lithified in the lowest ledge, all hidden
Under drifting dunes, dissolving marl; the scoured sandstone
Of inner deserts, abandoned coastal plains;
All hidden under mountain ranges worn
To dusty stubs by time & tide & tempest.

A heave of memory
And the earth churns up, turns over:
Lifts, tilts, dips, jack-knifes, splits, is cloven
Until my spirit quakes.
But springs, lagoons soak through;
The subterranean groundwaters of joy
Bubble out, well up
Carving channels & runnels for light,
For comprehension of the unfathomable
Chaotic & uninhabitable world
Of what is past.

Here the level ribbon of time
Is rinsed & crimped, furled & unfurled,
Pulsed, pushed, hurled
As life’s pyroclastic flow sheds out,
Spreads out another layer
And another & another.
All strands & faults are weighed
Down, pressed down: overflowing
Far beyond a full measure
Where vaults & galleries echoed once
With emptiness.

Still, deep below the landscape long grassed over,
Somewhere in the hemispheres’ tight folds:
Steadfast bedrock.

© Lizzie Ballagher

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