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Talus Slope
George Witte


Buckled up by continental 
Grind so slow and powerful it
Fused frail-boned fossils of an age
Long dead into an iron spine,
The ridge juts black against the rain,
Holding nothing back. Striations
In the stone mark a glacier’s till
Of retreat; the thick cold tongue stripped
Topsoil neat like skin, exposing 
Sheer cliffs.
                   This winter, as always,
Rain and snow slip like simple words
Into the cracks of rhetoric
And swell a little. Ice crystals
Sprout perpendicular to ground,
Infinite delicate chisels
Chip the cliff face out until it
Collapses into stone strewn clean
Down-mountain like a river bed
Gone arid.
                    But tilt a boulder
On the slope, bend close: a single
Crystal hardens like a bud dew-
Wet with origins, hieroglyph
Of a secret life. At dawn or
After rain, or beneath calm drifts
Of snow, the ridge is blossoming
Within itself, its shales peel off
Like petals to reveal the peak
Of rock, the heart learning to speak.

From The Apparitioners (Orchises Press, 2005)
Used with the author's permission.




George Witte is the author of three collections of poems: Does She Have a Name? (NYQ Books, 2014), Deniability (Orchises Press, 2009), and The Apparitioners (Orchises Press, 2004). His poems have been published in a range of journals and anthologized in The Best American Poetry, Old Flame, Rabbit Ears, and Vocabula Bound. He received Poetry magazine's Frederick Bock prize, as well as a fellowship from the New Jersey Council for the Arts. For thirty years he has worked in book publishing, as an editor of fiction and nonfiction books, publisher of Picador USA, and for the past fifteen years editor in chief of St. Martin’s Press. He lives with his family in Ridgewood, New Jersey. 



Post New Comment:
Wow. This says it all and, poetically, does it all beautifully.
Posted 02/05/2015 10:12 AM
Excellent poem, in imagery, sound---I agree with Phebe :).
Posted 02/05/2015 07:09 AM
Geology as poetry - I love it.
Posted 02/05/2015 05:55 AM
This is an exceedingly fine poem---beautifully crafted, inexorable, something to return to time & again.
Posted 02/05/2015 05:49 AM
Ross Kightly:
So important to try to see ourselves in some sort of humbling geological context - this does the job beautifully!
Posted 02/05/2015 04:15 AM
Posted 02/04/2015 11:38 PM

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