by Christopher O'Brien

My name is Pele, she said.
Like the goddess? I asked. Yes, she said.
And she really was like the goddess Pele.
Fire-gold hair framed her face and fire-red curled back like
Behind her ears,
And down the nape of
Her neck ran
Black-as-smoke tendrils that disappeared into her collar.
Her skin was black as coal; her obsidian eyes glinted when
She deigned to smile.

Be careful: people get burnt by Pele.
I know.
It could hurt.
I know.
So you're warned

Her warning oozed like honeyed lava into my ears like
Vesuvius must have whispered to poor Herculaneum before she embraced that town in
Arms of flame.

On my digital camera I took her picture.
It won't come out, she said. I'm too dark to be seen by that digital thingy.
She was right; just a black smudge dominated the middle of the frame.
So I got a new SLR camera, loaded it with regular
Analog film, the kind you get at the drugstore,
And got her again.
It still won't, she said. You'll burn a hole in the film and the
Lens will burn and the camera will be all ruined and
You'll blame me.

Again, no picture.

I followed her to the store one day,
Trying to see what she'd shop for.
Toothpaste and a new brush. That was all
In a big grocery bag.
Then I saw her shoplift some perfume.
She chose Musk Oil.
I didn't know they made that anymore.
She would be scented like an animal.

I saw you watching me at the store, she told me.

It's okay, I stole something. I knew you were watching and I
Stole something.
Did you like it?
I did.
Which was the best part?
Probably that it was Musk Oil.
Yes, that was good.

In 79 CE, Vesuvius erupted
Most famously,
Burying Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Throughout history
Vesuvius has been a naughty girl.

You won't be seeing me much longer, she said.
My vulcanized skin had grown thick under
The heat of her presence. She smoldered, but
I hardly felt it anymore.
She smoked an unfiltered cigarette,
A practice she knew I loathed.
Once I'm gone, you'll feel some pain.
No, I won't.
You will. It's okay, but I know you will.

Shadows gathered about her feet
As she walked away from me.
Now some other dude has her smoldering presence
Thickening his skin,
And my skin has grown cooler to the touch, although I cannot feel it.
My nerves seem to be dead on the
Underside of my flesh.
The outer skin of a lava tube is crisp and thin and heated/cooling as I imagine a lava tube would feel,
Never having actually touched volcanic rock.

Christopher O'Brien is a poet and a teacher. He wrestles with words and occasionally subdues some, but they always return with more force than he can handle. He sees a losing, tragic battle ahead, and glory in Valhalla.

home  |  submissions  |  about  |   contact us  |  archives  |  links   |   site map