Burning Mountain

by Liz Robbins

The world’s oldest underground mine fire has been burning
6,000 years—

This is in Australia, landscape of opera and barrier reefs, gun
laws. Heat

from the fires, leaving the mine rocky and jagged, the land caved
in like a glorious

indoor pool. Somewhat like this, our differences, yours and mine.
How heat destroys

us into emotional extravagance. How we can’t stop lecturing or rid

of outworn values. The black dress I wore to your mother’s funeral,
its secret

underside of orange silk. Heat from the fire, leaving the mine rocky
and jagged—

We keep silent, our private permissions hidden. The veiled fear,
lamps kept lit.

The world’s oldest mine began with a rumble between two things,
lightning strike

or spontaneous combustion, some kind of invisible barter, so the heat
is also

a movement that wants to spring confused canaries abandoned

wants to quit pacing red borders. The mountain burning through its
energy is a kind

of god-magic unsolved, what keeps us reaching toward the larger—

LIZ ROBBINS’ third collection, Freaked, won the 2014 Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award; her second collection, Play Button, won the 2010 Cider Press Review Book Award. In 2015 she won the Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry and in 2016 was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Fugue. Her poems have appeared in Adroit JournalBeloit Poetry JournalBOAATDenver QuarterlyKenyon Review Online, and Rattle, as well as on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor; she has poems forthcoming in Poetry East and Salt Hill. She’s an associate professor of creative writing at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL.