By Peter Halstead

Glass is sand in heat,
As beach is carbon
Grown too hot for feet,
Glass blown and bleached
By coaxing sky,
Stone, coal, sand
Machined and leached
By hand and bone to tie
Ravines and land to air,
To join the eye to earth,
Lean with glare
And dearth, and yet
Attached to sun
By the summer in between,
Death attached to birth
By sky’s transparent screen,
Scud and sea
That wave and meet,
Until we see
The land through glass and heat
Fused from silicon,
Each made out of each,
When we take pictures at the beach.

August 11th, 1995

August 6th, 2006

December 25th, 2006
September 22nd, 2008


As Cathy said to me, “This is an elemental poem about the sun, a cauldron that has the power to melt the earth, to turn the sky into something other, into a gas.
“Even though it starts perfectly innocently with glass, already there’s melting: things become so hot they become something else. Those enormous forces are at work through the entire poem, its elements changing form from liquid to solid to gas, beyond even the visible forces of nature, into more profound chemical and astronomic forces.
“Even though there are hints of the human—the feet, the hand that makes the lens, the eye, death and birth—none of that seems to matter compared to the large forces; but when you get to the end, the human becomes suddenly important, we become bigger than the vast inner forces, suddenly it’s about giant forces coming together and making something on a human scale that we can use, then it’s almost witty, light, offhand, it’s a beach day, a picnic. The world has been in a cauldron, and suddenly we’re taking pictures. That’s what this poem was about? I thought it was about galaxies. It throws you back to the beginning to figure out what in the world was really going on here, with this whimsical human thing which has taken place while the forces of the universe go about their immense transmogrification.
“The earth is a baby, attached to the sun and sky by ectoplasm; it’s a medium where transformation is constantly occurring. It’s a giant chemical experiment.
“It’s Alice in Wonderland transformed, a childhood memory echoed in the rhyme scheme, and with things metamorphosing in an odd universe, a kind of looking glass.”
Sand under the heat of sky makes silicon, from which we get the glass of camera lenses, so that the eye sees the earth through the medium of the earth. We see hot sand because a lens is made of hot sand, melted by the bright sun. So vision is made up of opposites meeting and forming scientific similarities. Heated sand makes an August beach and also a camera lens to photograph it.