In slow hours of cloud and sun
I walk the miles of trail
around Kilauea’s south rim,
silent but for wind in my ears
and feet crunching pumice.
At last I see ohelo berries,
watery sweets of the caldera,
handfuls on the smallest bushes.
The trail crosses mixed metaphors
of a recent lava flow,
a choppy sea and waterfalls
of licorice bread with cracked crust,
like an iridescent beetle.
Six years ago, lava slopping
on ohia trees made these molds,
black rough columns without a temple.
Birds whistle in the forest
beyond the flow.
Hearing the flap of heavy wings,
I look up at two nene geese
low overhead. One of them honks.
On the bottom of the front page
is a picture of Jimmy Carter smiling,
telling reporters he thinks he did all right
getting the embassy hostages freed,
whatever Ronald Reagan says,
but has nothing to say about
the economy. He was snorkeling
when the new president made his speech.
In the pictures he is smiling,
thinking of pretty fish perhaps,
or his wife. He’s smiling because
the economy’s not his problem any more.
He’s left it behind, has other things
to do with his life than be president.
It begins in the state park there.
The mouth is over this way,
where the small motorboats that shoot
into the bay like bullets are docked.
It’s less than half a mile long.
Its industry is the Hilo Iron Works,
with clattering mill, grumbling trucks,
beer cans and pines with twittering birds.
A big splash. I don’t see what made it.
The water’s fresh and clear
with lots of small to trout sized fish,
a deep bodied fish with orange fins.
Two Hawaiian men paddle a canoe,
one young, one old with gray hair.
“The secret to swimming on Maui
is that there’s always a better pool
a ways upstream from the road,” says Jack.
After a climb of dry lava boulders
and water glimpsed deep in holes like wells,
I ask if this stream’s Hawaiian name
might mean “One Pool Near the Road.”
Cynthia laughs. Jack, far ahead,
says he sees a waterfall and a cave.
Here lava layers sprout vines and ferns,
stone splashes shatter to droplets
so small they drift down like snow,
water strings splash castle to ripples
reflecting sunrings on rock undersides.
Naked we enter the cold mirror
to soak off the afternoon sun.
A copper dragonfly hovers and darts.
Two waterfalls into a dark pool,
cliffs cracked like alligator hide.
One man waits, the other takes a long hike
across the second falls around the cliffs
to where he can climb down to the water.
He stands still to let himself sink
until his sunburned body shimmers
to streaks of yellow. He bobs up
and tells his friend, “It’s plenty deep.”
The second man takes off his shoes and socks,
looks down at the dark green water,
hesitates and dives head first.
A streak of bubbles vanishes
when a wet head and shoulders reappear.
They consider, then dive down into the next pool.
It’s a short way down, a slow way back.
The waves are moving mountains,
peaking, sinking, rocking in random directions,
gray blue and pure pale aqua,
white froth that gets blown off by the wind,
constant explosions of spray on rock,
sudden horizontal waterfalls,
arms of foam beating into each other,
thin sheets of rain mixed with spray.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Painting, “Seven Pools”: 1982, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 18 inches, detail size about 10.5 x 14 inches.