Las Grietas, Galapagos

The earth crusts with dry clay only
inches from the shallow water line;

as if the salt grains drink the moisture
greedily and starve the cactus lives.

We walk the lava stones and stumble
on their fringes— loose, misshapen stairs

adrift above brackish panes of sea
in whose aqueous windows we gaze

the early horizon and dappled clouds
ahead— billowing islands far-off shore.

This is the landscape time forgot
and iguanas still remember;

this the walk to Las Grietas’s promise
on lava’s sleeping embers, aging

while sunlight polishes saline ponds
and darkens my forearms to a marvel,

while I marvel as the grey-bearded man
once assayed this queer, senescent island

from whose womb his burnished idea
was birthed and raised as for survival.

James Hughes is a teacher, musician and songwriter living in the San Francisco Bay area, where he completed graduate degrees in English and Education at Stanford University.