WEGENER’S JIGSAW (UK
ONE DAY THE ICE WILL REVEAL ALL ITS DEAD (US
There is a time,
I tell her, that takes so long that only the land can understand.
It is the land’s time, with land-seconds, land-minutes
and land-hours. In this time there are different rules;
substances change character, even the most brittle solid
can become liquid enough to flow. A land-second is long
enough for an icicle to bend, and for a glacier to creep
downwards to the sea. In a land-minute rocks can be pushed
into mountains and they can curve and fold like baker’s
dough. But during a land-hour the solid-liquid continents
have time to float by in the liquid-solid mantle; they fracture,
they rift, they form valleys and then they float away. They
push their way through the sima-mantle that has now become
a liquid sea. Imagine the hours creaking by, Hilde, imagine
continents colliding, earthquakes making the whole globe
shake, and a mountain chain rising in a colossal wave.
Her head is sinking onto my shoulder. But when I shift she
wakes and whimpers so I talk again.
Ah such mountains, my little one, if only we could see them:
one continent nudging another, India against Asia, buckling
up the land between to form a plateau in the clouds. Or
the Andes, ribbing the earth like your curled up backbone,
such a colossal chain, arching backwards as it encounters
the chilled Pacific. So many land-hours have passed. The
sima-surface of the ocean floor has set quite hard and the
westward drift of the Americas has become a push. The leading
edges buckle, the sial splinters, and from these rents volcanoes
quietly exude a runny lava.
I stop. By my neck there is a wet patch of dribble. When
we pass a mirror I see her eyes are shutting and then being
forced open again and so I continue.
A land-day has passed and what do we see? Behind the stately-moving
continent are a dozen islands, sloughed off in its wake,
and in front of each island, at the cold bottom of an old
ocean, the sima has become brittle enough to fracture and
form a trench. So deep, Hilde. Imagine the blackness, imagine
the cold. Every movement is sudden and ferocious: earthquakes,
Hilde, great tidal waves, and before each shift a mighty
swelling up of sima. Imagine a volcano, all that fire, all
She whimpers a little then sucks on her fist.
But this is so far away, little one, or so long ago. Even
the land does not remember when the sial of Marburg last
swept through oceans. There is nothing to fear. The only
earthquakes here, my love, are the ones we make ourselves.