We'll say unbelievable things to each other in the early morning— our blue coming up from our roots, our water rising in our extraordinary limbs. All night I dreamt of bonfires and burn piles and ghosts of men, and spirits behind those birds of flame. I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through. It is a short walkway— into another bedroom. Consider the handle. Consider the key. I say to a friend, how scared I am of sharks. How I thought I saw them in the creek across from my street. I once watched for them, holding a bundle of rattlesnake grass in my hand, shaking like a weak-leaf girl. She sends me an article from a recent National Geographic that says, Sharks bite fewer people each year than New Yorkers do, according to Health Department records. Then she sends me on my way. Into the City of Sharks. Through another doorway, I walk to the East River saying, Sharks are people too. Sharks are people too. Sharks are people too. I write all the things I need on the bottom of my tennis shoes. I say, Let's walk together. The sun behind me is like a fire. Tiny flames in the river's ripples. I say something to God, but he's not a living thing, so I say it to the river, I say, I want to walk through this doorway But without all those ghosts on the edge, I want them to stay here. I want them to go on without me. I want them to burn in the water.
—For Mammoth Cave National Park
Humongous cavern, tell me, wet limestone, sandstone caprock,
bat-wing, sightless translucent cave shrimp,
this endless plummet into more of the unknown,
how one keeps secrets for so long.
All my life, I’ve lived above the ground,
car wheels over paved roads, roots breaking through concrete,
and still I’ve not understood the reel of this life’s purpose.
Not so much living, but a hovering without sense.
What’s it like to be always night? No moon, but a few lit up
circles at your many openings. Endless dark, still time
must enter you. Like a train, like a green river?
Tell me what it is to be the thing rooted in shadow.
To be the thing not touched by light (no that’s not it)
to not even need the light? I envy; I envy that.
Desire is a tricky thing, the boiling of the body’s wants,
more praise, more hands holding the knives away.
I’ve been the one who has craved and craved until I could not see
beyond my own greed. There’s a whole nation of us.
To forgive myself, I point to the earth as witness.
To you, your Frozen Niagara, your Fat Man’s Misery,
you with your 400 miles of interlocking caves that lead
only to more of you, tell me,
what it is to be quiet, and yet still breathing.
Ruler of the Underlying, let me
speak to both the dead and the living as you do. Speak
to the ruined earth, the stalactites, the eastern small-footed bat,
to honor this: the length of days. To speak to the core
that creates and swallows, to speak not always to what’s
shouting, but to what’s underneath asking for nothing.
I am at the mouth of the cave. I am willing to crawl.