The Volcanologist’s Last Words on Mt. St. Helens
Her craggy forehead blows—a landslide shoots
to shave the thicket, mount the threatened steep,
snake down the drainage, gulf the valley’s sweep,
floating cars, houses, trees ripped from their roots…
Black and voluminous vapors rise,
as high as fifteen miles up; the day
is blotted. Solid earth shakes, giving way;
smoldering columns kindle half the skies.
What was a mountain cascades from a spout.
Scientists run from observation rooms.
But you keep on, describe impending fumes;
armed with a two-way radio, you shout
your last words from your ridge, still passionate,
heard: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”
Editor’s Note: Some people may know that I’m peculiarly fond of disaster movies and stories, and this sonnet’s volta evokes just the sort of urgency and foolhardiness that most confounds me during such drama.