Mount St. Helens
Never mended my blind spot—thought the volcano swerved
A graphic novel monster, stationary molten rock
At Windy Ridge, Mount St. Helens, 30 years post-eruption
Cell phone powers up approaching the ridge—four bars.
A series of beeps in your pocket
Imagine those hikers falling from a snow cornice
Thinking they stood on solid rock, not packed snow
Posing for a photo, they slid down the south face
Blurred in winter’s majestic light, flashes of old growth forest
Charred in pyroclastic flow
No more solid than the peak that once glistened distant
On blue Portland days
What you can’t fathom finds you
Objects unto obliteration.
Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life,
and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
– Daniel 12:2
Poets and scientists struggle
to explain, to grasp
volcanology—a pyroclastic flow
hot gas undulating
liquid fires flying
domes collapsing upon themselves
We cannot stay away
cannot appease public needs
the towers fell in fragments
beneath the rubble
Large tephra chunks of
Lapilli (Italian, for the ash
Species return, some new to the
Cascade plain where forest had thrived
We live with embers
What about a simple memorial?
A national monument for all who pray or cry
Volcanic insides expose hot air
Light hits the pit where rubble lingers
I hear something.
Cheryl J. Fish has poems online at Big City Lit and Not Enough Night, and in the Tribeca Poetry Review, New American Writing, and The Village Voice. She has written essays on environmental justice in a Harlem architectural design between June Jordan and Buckminster Fuller, and her piece on ethnicity and ecojustice in the works of Ruth Ozeki and Judith Helfand appeared in the journal MELUS. She was a Fulbright Lecturer in Finland, and writer-in-residence at the Science Pulse at Mt. Saint Helens Volcanic National Monument in 2010, where these poems were inspired.
Photo by Simmons B. Buntin.