Underworld: Los Volcanes de Brea

By | 15 February 2023

black domes are hard hats floating on oil
asphalt seeps upwards methane hemispheres
erupt where the dark lake expels its secrets
in, in and down: a police diver ferrets
for clues – Beowulf hunting Grendel’s mother
lake-hag nursing wordless grief
in a bog boiling with her son’s blood

get down. get out. time arches its back
open-mawed Smilodon fatalis
a hovering Cheshire cat he can’t shake off
the thought that something stalks him in this pit
bared teeth hot breath of a predator
a dire-wolf snarling down
through murky water

this thing he dredges up turns slowly
in his hands a fragment of mammoth-tusk
rodent-toes treasure-trove snatched
from the walls of a black cave
or the weapon that could nail a homicide?

crude oil bubbles upwards punctures
the lake’s meniscus he could be mired too
fins sunk to the bottom melded
with curled ferns and ice-age bones
in movement is salvation fossil words
trapped like ants in amber while his brain
grows fur deep wells of tangled bone

dazed out of body light-headed now
methane welling around him
he can barely see his fingers beyond the mask
above men huddle over sonar maps
metal detectors wait for his return
the communication line’s stuck in sludge
but all the signals point to something

crude oil makes mountains of itself
stalagmites belch promises
he squeezes them like a lover
and they mouth answers
in a dead language

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