NINA POWLES

Volcanology

here was no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when
everything appears grotesque—it frightens—as though the savage spirit of the country
walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.

—Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Woman at the Store’

 

When I
was a child
I saw the volcano
pull a man apart. I keep
pieces of the volcano on my
windowsill, next to the honey
jars, so they don’t forget. My store
is the only one for miles, mate. Men
think they can ride round the volcanoes
(past where the earth goes from red to black)
without so much as a biscuit in their tin. They’re
thirsty when they come. It’s dusk when they come. At
dusk, everything’s stuck still and quiet. Gets dark, see, sky
burning round the mountain peak and the in-between air
thickening into a deep blue murk you can’t get your eyes
through. My poppies turn black and my paua shells glow
like I’ve cursed them. Just now the wind’s dropped
dead like the start of an eruption. I don’t know
where those men are going, but here’s
something I do know. I know one
hundred and twenty-five ways
to bury a man in earth
that was once
on fire.

Nina Powles studied English literature and Chinese at Victoria University, where she is now completing her MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in SalientTurbine and Sweet Mammalian. Her debut poetry collection, Girls of the Drift, was published by Seraph Press in 2014.

Powles comments: ‘When I first read Katherine Mansfield’s “The Woman at the Store” I imagined it taking place in the middle of nowhere—specifically, I imagined the black, volcanic tundra of an area in the middle of the North Island called the Desert Road. Being something of a rather volcanic character, it makes sense to me that the woman would surround herself with volcanoes. In this poem, I think I’m trying to crawl into that “curious half-hour”, that volatile territory of the in-between. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, where are you? If there is no twilight, what is there?’

Poem source details >

 

Links

Girls of the Drift at Seraph Press