(Bartolome de Las Casas, Inferno de Marsaya, 1536)
by Daniel Tobin
Above the white-hot core the pure sky burns,
a cloud-range backlit in sulfur and gold.
What truth endures beneath the flaming stream?
In seething ships the Africans come in streams
like Christ to take the place of those who burn—
the flayed, native skin that is the conqueror's gold
the priest hoped to save, for love of God not gold,
though blood runs through time like a molten stream.
He watches from his perch the earth's offing burn
gold, black, and red. This world's the burning stream.
("A Volcano" is Slate's poem for the week. Photo: Nyiragongo Volcano, north of Goma, DR Congo. March 2006 or so.)