09 February 2007


[from Garrett Hongo's The River of Heaven, 1988]

Eruption: Pu'u O'o

We woke near midnight,
flicking on the coat closet's bulb,
the rainforest chilled with mist,
a yellow swirl of gas
in the spill of light outside.
Stars paling, tucked high
in the sky's blue jade,
we saw, through the back windows
and tops of ohia trees,
silhouettes and red showers
as if from Blake's fires,
magenta and billows of black volleying.
Then, a burbling underground,
like rice steaming in the pot,

shook through chandeliers of fern
and the A-frame's tambourine floor,
stirring the cats and chickens
from the crawl-space and their furled sleep.
The fountain rose to 900 feet that night,
without us near it, smoking white,
spitting from the cone 6 miles away,
a geyser of flame, pyramids and gyres of ash.

Novices, we dressed and drove out,
first to the crater rim, Uwekahuna
a canyon and sea of ash and moonstone,
the hardened, grey back of Leviathan
steaming and venting, dormant under cloud-cover.
And then next down Volcano Road past the villages
to Hirano Store on Kilauea's long plateau.
There, over canefield and the hardened lava land,
all we saw was in each other's eyes —
the mind's fear and the heart's delight,
running us this way and that.

Crossing Ka'u Desert

from under the harpstring shade of tree ferns
and the blue trumpets of morning glories
      beside the slick road,
the green creep of davallia and club moss
      (their tiny hammers
                                    staffed quarter-notes
                and fiddlenecks on the forest floor),
spider lilies and ginger flowers like paper cranes
      furling in the tongues of overgrowth,
                in the sapphired arpeggios of rain

to the frozen, shale-colored sea,
      froth, swirls, bleak dithyrambs of glass,
a blizzard of cinderrock and singed amulets,
warty spires and pipelines,
      threnodies of surf whirling on the lava land —

our blue car the last note of color
driving a black channel
                                    through hymnless ground

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