The Volcanologist (Mr X)

Looming cautious, he peers like a jaguar in a tree,
an addict, on the edge of a big mistake –
mind split, fractured by equal needs to flee
and stay, here with the sacred magma lake,
to gaze, heart aching, on such magnificence,
ever moving, potent beauty and force,
he stares and drowns in true ambivalence,
to leave or join Gaia, to stay the course.
~
Obsession took its hold from early days –
a younger Mr X devoured all the words he could
on the marvels of earth’s seismic rage displays.
But that was not enough, he understood
his studies heart would need to be insitu,
so travelling far he searched volcanic forms –
those most fiery, not subdued.
This fascination deepened into swarms

of thoughts, so strange, they frightened him, in ways
not clear, but also a calm, they did provide,
a balm to life’s disasters and dull days,
a twisted but faithful beacon to guide.
~
The earth rumbles, lava blobs and hot spits
sulphur breath into the air, hissing yes,
or was that no, his ears are playing tricks
and his feet move closer, as if to acquiesce,

his face glows in the heat of his adored,
his lips dry and crack in desiccated air,
but his eyes crave more than he’s had before,
never tiring of this burnt burgundy affair.

So he moves in, closer still, skin all but touching
the creature that is this moving lava flow.
Such crushing heat and smells, the flooding
of agony through every synapse – No!

Sheer panic rises in his throat, he turns for flight,
the heat so strong his boots have all but melt,
his shirt melds to his skin, the glaring light.

He runs, goat-like, far from this earth’s death belt.

24 thoughts on “The Volcanologist (Mr X)

  1. I remember hearing (years ago) about a story of a volcanologist who went mad – he was so obsessed with the volcano’s lava flow that he built a special canoe and tried to white water raft down the magma stream – he died! Now I can’t find any information about this story, and wonder if I dreamt it all – haha – I googled it, and nothing came up – if you know anything about the story, can you tell me – I want to know what his name was.

  2. A marvellous poem, Gabrielle – a masterful portrait of an obsession and a great pairing to your quote of the moment. “an addict, on the edge of a big mistake” – what a great line! it is utterly compelling right to the very end in its narrative, imagery and rythym and I very much like the unexpected ending – I expected him to disappear into its gloopy depths. And I love the image of him at the edge thinking the volcano is talking to him. From some of your previous comments I think the title could change in a few years to The Volcanologist (Gabrielle and Michael Bryden), so it’s just as well you didn’t kill him off 😀

    1. Thanks bluebee (you get 5/5 for your comment – haha) – I am glad someone reads my ‘quote of the moment’ 😉 I like the sound of ‘gloopy depths’ – onomatopoeia I think. You have a good memory – haha – my husband thinks we are crazy and won’t let us go to Italy to follow the volcano trail (maybe NZ will be the go – though the wine and food is not quite the same as the Italian stuff).

  3. that is so spooky, it reminded me of the headless horseman in ‘the legend of sleepy hollow’, it gave me the same kind of goosebumps i remember getting from that story when i was a kid! brought me right back to ichabod crane! really great!

    1. Haha – thanks tipota – it doesn’t seem spooky to me (but I am too close to the story – in my head, it’s like a cartoon or an adventure story – I did want to be a volcanologist when I was young).

  4. dear gabrielle,

    i want him dead. but you can mystify and glorify his death as a wish finally granted. it is like a moth who loves to circle around the flame. such would be a bravery, that he is not afraid of taking risks.

    1. I wanted him dead too hames, but it would have required a few extra stanzas and I was running out of puff – haha – I should write a short story (it would be easier I think) – thanks for stopping by 🙂 I think if he had died it would have been a good show of force by the volcano and a slap in the face for the volcanologists arrogance – though it is more passion and madness than arrogance – but that is neither here or there to a volcano who could not give a hoot for mere humans.

  5. One would have to be a little mad or addicted to be hanging around all that magma. You describe how it would be really well. I’m glad he got away but it was a bit touch and go – the melting boots freaked me out. Can you imagine being that obsessed that you would let that happen? YOW!

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