I would rather my child loved violins
than volcanoes.
I’d rather they tripped over Potstock
than tottered near molten rock.
I’d rather they didn’t stumble
near a gurgling geyser of lava,
rather bite my lip red-raw
than them caper next to a crater.
I would rather ignore their pleas
to ride in a boat on a coulee,
tie them with ribbons and bows
than ring them with ribbon bombs.
I’d rather they slumbered in attics
than slept in a magma chamber.
I would rather not be the mother
of a volcanologist.
I would rather not know what is in
a pyroclastic flow,
or the speed it spews from the earth.
I would rather not anger Hephaestus –
thrown out of heaven’s bliss.
I would rather not hear “instant death”
used a comforting maxim.
I’d rather not tempt the Fates,
and quip “if I die tomorrow.”
I’d rather my smooth obsidian
were set in a statue’s eyes,
rather faint at Stravinsky’s airs
than swoon over vents at Stromboli.
I would rather remember her frame –
a slip, the half of his weight.
I’d rather not see a love so rare
sacrificed to flames.
I’d rather not watch a faithful match
die in passion’s embrace.
I would rather retreat from an ancient caldera.
I would rather tuff than ashes and cinders.
I would rather they were not fearless.
I would rather not live.

(Joint Winner, Princemere Poetry Prize 2019)