by Ed Meek
In case you forgot
what burns beneath
the surface of the earth,
pay a visit to Pele,
goddess of the volcano,
on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi
where a fire river of lava
tunnels through molten rock.
You can catch Kīlauea flow—
luminous at night—
from black pahoehoe cliffs
that overlook Kaʻū Loa Point;
locals call it the witch’s nose.
Gleaming lava cascades from her mouth
into the Pacific Ocean
where it clashes with crashing waves,
crackles and spits steam and gas
into a vast sky and solidifies
into vase, or volcanic glass. Just in case
you forgot what simmers
at 2000 degrees
two miles beneath
the surface of the earth…
Previously published in Cosmopsis Quarterly (Fall 2009).
PHOTO: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaiʻi. Photo by MN Studios, used by permission.
NOTE: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park features two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano. The park provides scientists with insight into the development of the Hawaiʻian Islands and access for studies of volcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes, glimpses of rare flora and fauna, and a view into the traditional Hawaiʻian culture connected to these landscapes. The park was established on August 1, 1916 as Hawaiʻi National Park, which was divided into this park and Haleakalā National Park. In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987. In the Hawaiʻian religion, Pele is the goddess of volcanoes and fire and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.
PHOTO: Mural of the goddess Pele, Big Island, Hawaiʻi. Photo by Marlon Trottmann, used by permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, we went to see the active volcano at night and watched the lava flow into the ocean. It was spectacular.
NOTE FROM THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Seeing lava flow with your own eyes is a rare sight. We drove our car as far as we could until the road ended and then switched to bikes to get to the lookout point. The glasslike rock scratched our skin as we sat and waited for nightfall with our camera equipment. At dusk, we captured this moment where the glowing fire blossomed into clouds of steam as it collided with the lapping waves that crashed against the cliff. We were witnessing the birth of new land and saw the raw power of brute violence of natural creation. There is no clearer evidence that the earth is alive. Photo of Kīlauea lava flow by Mandy Beerley on Unsplash.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ed Meek has been published in The North American Review, The Sun, and The Paris Review. His new book of poems, High Tide, came out in 2020.