Without Guardrails

Patricia Behrens


You will not climb the cliff road
with its sheer drop to cobalt—

no guardrails
should the driver turn,
momentarily distracted,
to smile at a woman
or be drawn
in the dry heat
toward the water
over the caldera's rim.

You will not climb to watch
cruise ships steam soundlessly
in and out of the caldera—

knowing the day
the volcano erupted
might have been calm,
the Aegean windless, flat

before a sudden breach
upended cliffs, churches,
white stone houses
as the volcano dropped
wave after wave of crockery,
rock shards, limbs, blood,
stone, shocked faces and
green-eyed cats
into its lava core.

You will not climb to watch
sunset light
the lingering volcanic ash in red.

Patricia Behrens is a writer and lawyer living in New York City.