Tuesday Poem

Blast Zone

Mt st helens In his book Danger On Peaks poet Gary Snyder describes a trip to the area around Mt. St. Helens (called Loowit –meaning smoky in the Sahaptin native American language) in Washington State, USA. The mountain exploded on May 18, 1980 in an eruption with the power of 500 Hiroshima bombs, Snyder says.

Snyder recalls his first trip to the mountain when he was thirteen and subsequent trips prior to the 1980 eruption then brings his readers up to date with a return there after Mt. St. Helens blew. Danger On Peaks lays this out in alternating prose and poetry in a remarkably illuminating way.

Approaching Loowit Snyder reaches a spot it can be seen in its transformed state. He writes:

Finally pull up to the high ridge, now named Johnston after the young geologist who died there, and walk to the edge. The end of the road. Suddenly there's all of Loowit and a bit of the lake basin! In a new shape, with smoking scattered vents in this violet-gray light.

The white dome peak wacked lower down,
open-sided crater on the northside, fumarole wisps
a long gray fan of all that slid and fell
angles down clear to the beach
dark old-growth forest gone no shadows
the lake afloat with white bone blowndown logs
scoured ridges around the rim, bare outcrop rocks
squint in the bright
ridgetop plaza packed with puzzled visitor gaze

no more White Goddess
but, under the fiery sign of Pele,
and Fudo—Lord of Heat
who sits on glowing lava with his noose
lassoing hardcore types
from hell against their will,

Luwit, lawilayt-lá—Smoky
is her name

publisher: Shoemaker Hoard, 2004