Our Earth hides treasures, secrets, history.
I’ve seen catacombs, King Tut’s tomb,
A vast cistern near the Topkapi,
A terracotta army still at attention.
Most caves and some diggings
are too deep and dark for me.
Of Cappadocia’s 200 underground cities
Kaymakli is the one we were to explore.
Multistory warren, 3000 years old.
People lived like prairie dogs or merkats
Hiding (as if from hawks, hyenas and lions)
from marauding, murdering steppe tribes.
The modest entrance--easily hidden in time
Of danger--to the deep city of Kaymalki,
Narrow, dark, no place I wanted to be
on a sunny spring day after a drive
from the fantastical tufa dwellings
of the day before. My stomach lurched.
My breath came short, I stopped, turned –
Said “I’ll wait outside.”
After Otto Schindler’s factory,
And another crowded, chaotic cemetery
Like the one in Prague, remembering
More than enough from Yod va Shem,
Auschwitz was not a place I wanted to see.
Alternative: the Wieliczke Salt Mine,
178 miles of tunnels beneath Krakow,
378 wooden steps down, down, deep
down into the 900 year old mine.
A pure, rock salt city with a cathedral –
Statues, even chandeliers of salt, where
Pope John Paul II said mass more than once.
Statues in tunnels (salt gnomes digging salt
With salt pickaxes). A café, souvenir shop.
An astonishing subterranean space. Soon
I was eager to escape. I held my breath
in the crowded elevator ascending
a lightless shaft.