I know a man who regards rocks as books.
He breaks open their covers with a hammer, prises leaves apart with a cold-chisel. To him
the earth is a library of neglected books.
He can interpret language of fault-scarp, valley and dome:
a mountain is not a mountain so much
as an item of incunabula,
a rare old tome.
Nothing’s neat here, though: nothing’s undisturbed.
Time is both illuminator and vandal.
Chaos and carelessness are magnificent, even if
he regards it all as something of a scandal
books should be left lying about so
with their pages cemented,
whole collections, first editions,
tumbled, cascaded, tilted, upended,
sprawled over the floor, scrawled over
with crude green comment.
It almost drives him demented –
the destruction… the teasing of a flaked fragment.
But sometimes Nature herself
will turn a page for him,
peel a whole cliff away
He dances to see
the clean, undisfigured print there,
especially when the sun, setting,
touches it lovingly
and calls up an echo in his soul
of the same golden glint there.
This poem was selected by Joe McCall to be read at Poetry and Geology: A Celebration at The Geological Society last year. (Every attempt has been made to find copyright holder).