“A Volcano”

(Bartolome de Las Casas, Inferno de Marsaya, 1536)

Click here to listen to Daniel Tobin read this poem.

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

gold, black, and red. This world’s the burning stream.