Virginia Bell



Standing in line for food
one day
(the belly of my purse comfortably warm and full),
I listen to two professors in front of 
me say
they know the reason for all
the Muslim Fundamentalist terrorism
flowing through the earth
these days: Pope.

Yes, Islam has no Pope –
an otherwise acceptable religion,
irremediably flawed by the absence
of a clear hierarchical structure,
a clear chain of authority that descends
from one point and ensures productive
and humane practices all the way down
the line.

My 6 year old son tells me   
that there are pockets of magma
deep in the earth and, see Mommy,
the magma is hot and when the
pressure builds up, and builds up, and builds up,
the magma shoots up through these vents – that’s
the volcano erupting,
the magma turns to lava,
it flows down the side of the mountain,
building a new layer – you see, making the mountain
taller – and sometimes the magma comes out in a
that includes bits and chunks of rock,
igneous rock, you know, the stuff
from eruptions that happened before.

He draws me a picture, then,
with lines coming out
to the right and to the left,
each line representing an eruption in time.
I learn that the lava doesn’t always flow
in the same place;
he draws criss-crossy lines, showing the
messy and aleatory pattern of volcanic history.

Standing in line for food
that day
(the men in front of me carry their
savory packages away to a table),
I close my eyes,
try to picture
the lines I am not in,
what the women and men carry with them
as they stand and wait,
what they receive and carry away with them,
where they go, what they do with it,
what exactly it tastes like on their tongues,
what it feels like as it moves down and
into their bodies,
how it rests
or does not rest



Virginia Bell has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Maryland. She has published critical articles on Leslie Marmon Silko, Eduardo Galeano, and Rosario Castellanos. She has taught as an adjunct professor in the English Department at Georgetown University and the Women's Studies Department at the University of Maryland. She lives in Takoma Park and also works as a stay-at-home-parent of two children.

Published in Volume 7, Number 2, Spring 2006.