Size / / /


Twenty minutes before the crash
I see her.
She stands in the aisle of the bus,
an ancient Andean woman,
the face of a rock
of Cotacachi
of Mama Cotacachi staring at me.

Beyond her I see the mountains,
the volcanoes and the rocks below
far below the mountain road
the potholed mountain road
and the cliff that crumbles and plummets.

The bus and the sleeping idling souls
know not with whom they ride.

Only the mountain looks into me.


Fifteen minutes before the crash
she bumps through the aisle toward me,
clutching her ancient book.
The mountain watches me,
the mountain trembles up and down,
the mountain smokes with molten rock
and lava sliding down her cheeks.

She asks in her tongue
ever ancient ever new
what business I have here.

But I only respond to Spanish.

Yet the mountain knows my name
and will not move for me.
She roars, Why are you here?
And the hills around her quiver.
The bus, she says.

The bus, I say, and the rocks,
and that is why I ride with you.

The mountain trembles and spews its fumes
and I can't breathe beneath the pleas,
the Not Ready, the Need More Time.

Ahead of us
a man in a long black braid.
Her son
lost in his music.

He needs more time, says she.
The mountain looks into me.


Ten minutes from the crash
I laugh at the face of the mountain.
She thinks she can save the hills.
She thinks her lava tears will gather
and build mountains where there were none.

You laugh, she roars as the lava flies,
you laugh when you ride with us,
but you are mortal too—
yes, you are mortal too!

The bus jolts down and up again
and the mountain rumbles and quakes.
Her ancient book tumbles down to the floor
but she thunders again:
Even you will die!

I kick her book across the floor.

I say
You know not what you say,
and you know not what you ask!

She says
I know just what I ask,
and you know just what I say!

And suddenly I see them there,
the pillars of cloud between the hills
the passengers I'd failed to see
the ones all standing there grinning at me.

I rise to my feet
but the mountain will not move for me.
The face of Cotacachi
of Mama Cotacachi
of the rock who will not be molten.
The mountain looks into me.


Twenty minutes after the crash
I cannot see her.

I see
her son wandering, lost in his shock
by the shore of the steaming lake.
I see crying and staring, praying and moaning,
I see the hills streaming molten rock.
I tear through the wreckage
and see nothing, no woman,
no rock.

I find her book
bookmarked to mock me.
The mountain looks into me
but the mountain will not move for me.

Randi Anderson is a writer, musician, teacher, and foreign language enthusiast from rural Pennsylvania. She credits her travels and her students, as well as her gluttonous reading habit, for helping to inspire her fiction and poetry. Her website is
Current Issue
17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
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