Pyrocumulus I spend a lot of time thinking about when I am water, and knowing when I am not. If storms are tumult, they are so much more than cataclysmic, every one, even the soft rain in sun showers that washes dust rings onto windows. When the air is finally opened — and the heat that pours is not a kind of rain I can’t breathe so deeply when I find the air is ash — that pours falls and cools and the wind rushes away. When they ask me how I’m feeling I say very quietly — I think I’m burning — not the quick eat of fire, or the quake of a sun, more like the slow crawl of magma through a farm field. Sometimes I mistake myself for water. Rushing, cold, and never afraid—but maybe starving for land. but did you see the cloud? they ask. spring of not-water, but lightning. Pyrocumulus piled so high, so luminous, there was no mistaking the heat. There is little explanation for volcanic lightning— except that it wants to be water.
Ode to Vesuvius My first memory of a volcano is from a Superman cartoon that I watched over and over and over so many times in one afternoon that my siblings left me curled on the tile in front of the television, rubbing sun rays out of my eyes to go outside and play. Their voices echo like so far away bird songs. The real noise is animated fire. The story is foggy now, but I remember the burning so clearly. Superman and Lois Lane are shooting a documentary on a volcano. They think he is dormant, and they are climbing up mountain walls carefully — so carefully — their steps must feel like feathers turning into boulders. I was very young, but I already knew the name of Vesuvius, though this was a titan of fiction. I have seen the mummies in the ash, and to me all volcanoes are Vesuvius, his name Herculean, hearth and smoke, I know his broiling bubbling brawling burning bursting blaring belter his fury seething through a throat of dry earth. A vent of a voice held so deep inside it has forgotten how to be gentle, how to sing like soft, warm earth. — Not asleep. Not dead. Not dormant — Titanic. Shudders. Trembles. My core feels this. Still can feel this. Superman must, of course, save Lois, save the scientists and — true to chaos—their research is halted. The cartoon magma spews. Hunger colored orange and red. This city—every city is Pompeii eaten twice. Now I wonder why they ever thought the volcano was asleep. Dormant volcanoes are those that once had voice, that keep a throat still open toward the heavens, a fire-tongue parched and quiet with sand. I feel my own — my burning core — and know as the air leaves me: tumbled-dry, rough and glowing, as certain as embers in an engine that there are still many mouths without a voice, and I wonder how long until they realize the roar they hold can cause a world to waver Eyes full of sun rays can cause a quiet so loud the air smolders, So far away bird songs the earth ruptures. Superman can’t stop Vesuvius. This I remember.
Pele It is a secret that Pele, the goddess of fire, was the first to wander across the water, and that somewhere along the way her skin caught hold of the deepest flame. Now she still pours pieces of herself into the Pacific making land that smokes—that was once inferno; whatever she is, Pele still burns. In some stories she was a difficult daughter — born of earth and sky — sent from her home into an unknown. In some stories she was an adventurer, but in all stories Pele is she-who-shapes-the-sacred-land. In some stories, the goddess of fire has a great white dog made of ash and her brother was the King of Sharks; his great teeth—constantly falling into the deep, litter the beach like sea shells — are the teeth that brought his sister in a canoe from Kahiki, the unknown, over the water into the quiet land. Pele wasn’t burning then, but she was bright. In some stories Pele dug fire pits all over Hawai’i and slept in Haleakala with countless lovers. She left them in embers or chased them into forests; we don’t remember them. In some stories, Pele was married to the god of water. When she seeped the land with lava, he brought torrents of rain to extinguish her. When her heart finally erupted, Pele chased her lover into the ocean and the embrace of waves that held more salt than her rivers of fire, her fierce and final tears. It is no secret then that Pele became the goddess of fire: Woman who devours land. Perhaps, what you do not know is that the land is shapeless, and Pele was once so broken that she was not just burning: She was the feather in the flame. In some stories—she fought with a sister (she had fifteen) over a man who in vengeance chased Pele from the unknown to island to island and destroyed Pele at Hana, where the ground upturned. Pele crawled into the earth having lost all that made her human. She dug her final resting place on Mauna Kea, Helema-uma-u Crater in Kilauea. Let me ask you: how many of us have seen a broken flame? The stories don’t tell you that Pele was not done with her making. The stories don’t tell that she is still spilling fire into water making land. Goddess of dance, lightning, wind, and volcanoes: She who shapes the sacred land. “Oh Pele, here are your branches. I offer some to you some I also eat.” The stories don’t tell that Pele was not a goddess made of only of element. The stories don’t end by saying that Pele had a woman’s heart.
Originally from Albuquerque, NM where she attended the University of New Mexico, Kristian received her MFA from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and thus melded her love for the colorful Southwest with the stunning New England coast. Kristian’s first poetry chapbook, Storm (amazon), was released in July 2015 from Swimming With Elephants Publications in Albuquerque, NM. Her other publications of fiction and poetry are published in The Winter Tangerine Review, Philadelphia Stories, Duke City Fix: The Sunday Poem, Lightning Cake Journal, The Bellows American Review (The [BAR]), Ginosko Literary Journal, Elbow Room New Mexico, and Medusa’s Laugh Press. She has taught scriptwriting at the Emerson College Pre-College Creative Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches English at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Branch. View Kristian’s work at Kristianmacaron.com