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Tectonic Illusion

October 31, 2008

Arches and blowholes ― it is not the land
That’s being eaten now but sea. Bedrock
Is rising up, slow hand-over-hand
Experiment, pointing to ten o’clock.
The bedrock’s hard to carve but harder still
For the Pacific plate to buckle under,
Submitting to the North American will.
It’s lucky our coast isn’t torn asunder.
Yet to look out at the dark islands
With their tunnels, monoliths and caves
You’d think the flowering meadow of the headlands
Was being assaulted as the sea enslaves.
Things are not always as they appear.
The land is dining on the sea ― how queer!

by C. E. Chaffin

Download the MP3

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  1. October 31, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I especially like the way you turn geology into allegory throughout the poem:

    For the Pacific plate to buckle under,
    Submitting to the North American will.

    Good reading on the sound file, too. What a fine project qarrtsiluni is!

  2. sherry o'keefe
    October 31, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    “the land is dining on the sea”

    well now, that is really something to consider. what a well-crafted poem about one of my favorite subjects. now, i have a new way of looking at all that rock along the coast.


  3. November 1, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks! I learned about this paradox by reading “Assembling California,” though I live on the northern coast where this fact is right before my eyes.

    Sherry, are you in the neighborhood?

    The North American plate slips over the Pacific plate and scrapes off its surface like a piece of pizza. The headlands advance in stages which forms natural terraces as the next surge is elevated by the process. How queer!

  4. November 14, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I really enjoyed this, and your reading reminded me of the recordings of Dylan Thomas reading. The poem is well-executed, and as others have mentioned, the concept is captivating.

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