The Yellowstone Supervolcano,
a giant magma chamber
below a caldera more or less
in the middle of the national park,
if it erupts,
would cover about a third of the U.S.
in a layer of ash, thick enough in parts
that plants would die,
fields become sterile,
the waterways of the Midwest poisoned.

The cold ash and not the hot lava
does the damage.
The Earth would cool,
skies get dark in day,
mass evacuation,
millions starving.

In a worst case it would be
what scientists call
an extinction level event.
But that’s the worst case:
it may never happen in our lifetimes
nor in the lives of our grandchildren.

Still, I crack open
the canvas spine of my herbarium,
position a piece of honeysuckle,
pressed for a month,
and with a thin knife
lift a leaf, run the ball of a finger
across the wires of veins,
across each pistil thread,
infinitely patient, infinitely fragile.

Mother Ann Lee herself survived
New England’s Dark Day.
I suspect the flower has heard
that old saw of hers:
to do all your work
as though you had a thousand years to live
and as you would if you knew
you would die tomorrow.

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