Nina Powles

Volcanology

There was no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when
everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country
walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.

—Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Woman at the Store’

When I
was a child
I saw the volcano
pull a man apart. I keep
pieces of the volcano on my
windowsill, next to the honey
jars, so they don’t forget. My store
is the only one for miles, mate. Men
think they can ride round the volcanoes
(past where the earth goes from red to black)
without so much as a biscuit in their tin. They’re
thirsty when they come. It’s dusk when they come. At
dusk, everything’s stuck still and quiet. Gets dark, see, sky
burning round the mountain peak and the in-between air
thickening into a deep blue murk you can’t get your eyes
through. My poppies turn black and my paua shells glow
like I’ve cursed them. Just now the wind’s dropped
dead like the start of an eruption. I don’t know
where those men are going, but here’s
something I do know. I know one
hundred and twenty-five ways
to bury a man in earth
that was once
on fire.

Author’s Note

Sources

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