Friday, April 7, 2017

Jack Scot writes


Despite the grandeur
of this strange land
so utterly and completely
surrounding us
and the spell it cast
we vacillated between
rapt fascination
and fearful tension
threatening to trigger panic.
The deeper we descended
the more our fear rose.
Underlying claustrophobia
lifted briefly
as each grand vista opened
then tightened up again
as the tunnel walls closed in,
shrinking our comfort zone.
All the while I prayed
good health to generator
despite the flashlight in my hand.

Our guide must have sensed
our wavering, our irresolution
though we kept it to ourselves
for he suggested we turn back
before we reached the end of cave,
if there was an end to it,
a sobering, benumbing thought.

Within his commentary
he had explained to us
that he was extending
the main passages,
widening the narrows
and adding lights.
He worked alone,
with dynamite,
clearing the debris by hand
and stowing it in side tunnels.
We thought that dangerous
and told him so; alone
he could be in here for days
if he got injured.
He shrugged that off
apparently unwilling
to entertain that thought.

We turned around and headed back,
on the whole, reluctantly,
toward home which was now
so distant from our thoughts.
(Where had the time all gone?
And also space.)
Though still enveloped
by awesome majesty
every step along the way,
we realized we were receding
from splendid mystery
as well as welded fear,
disconnecting from fascination
by degrees measured in footfalls
ticking off a different sense of time,
regret containing a sense of loss
as if returning from the moon
and yet remaining homesick for it.

As if waking to a different day
than the one we’d left behind
we were confronted
by something like
a culture shock:
the familiar had taken on
an alien cast, drably exotic,
this sense of strangeness abetted
by snow-blindness from the sun.
Reorientation 101.
No tomb behind us; we have survived.
Our guide padlocks the womb
closing the channel between two worlds.
He confesses we’re his only guests this week.
We feel privileged and sympathy.

We’re quiet, the three of us,
silent, what can be said?
Our guide who’s seen it many times before
has seen it freshly again today;
we could read it on him.
And what we’ve seen is now
behind, within our eyes and minds
a gift of time and something more.
Would this be a lasting memory,
cast in bronze within our lore?

Or would it bleed anemically
within recall, like ichor into sand,
fading to a rumor and then erasure,
the frequent fate of the extraordinary
conjoining with the commonplace
on memory’s disassembly line?

We know we’ll feel the urge
to share the wonder of our experience,
but realize impossibility
will be the fate of any effort.
Telling would be something like:
We were in a cave.
I’d describe it for you,
but you’d have to be there
and see it  for yourself.

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