Children Of The Volcano

We snaked around the potholes and mud along the road through to Mount Tavurvur. Mother mountain stood higher than anything in my view. South daughter was asleep, covered in green. The station’s of the cross stood like stolen white picket fences in the volcanic ash. Frangipanis, brought by the Germans, dropped their floral bombs around their church, the cemetaries filled with an exotic mourning. Bougainvillea vine burst above emaciated dogs, breasts sucked long, feeding generations. Everywhere I looked, the leaves stood out, varieties so different to what I was used to. Watching Aleisha eat Betelnut was joyous. Opening up her amulet, she dipped into the white powder with a mustard stick. I asked her if tasted hot on her tongue and she said it was like a bean and passed me mine. It looked like she was dipping licorice into a sherbet fountain. She ripped open the pod of the fruit and bit into the soft pink flesh, spitting the husk out the car window. The spray hit her back and we laughed together as she wiped away the spit from her chin. The ground dust in her paperbark was coral or shell, still not quite sure, but she was comfortable and continued the ritual. Why aren’t your teeth black and mouth red like many others?. “I don’t do this as much as them, I have to study” she said. What are you studying, “I want to be a health worker”. Started to wonder what the health benefits of this bag of bliss was, but it sure did relax us. “Can I sing you a song?” Of course “This is called Bird Song”. When she finished, I turned my head to the car window so she couldn’t see my tears. Back on the shoreline, I slept dreaming of wooden lips that kissed me. “How old are you?” Well, if you add up all your ages and times it by two you might get close to mine. I left them counting and giggling as they climbed higher onto the rocks. “How many children do you have?” Do I lie and say three or tell them I never wanted any, hard to answer those six bright smiles.

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