Cavern undesignated on the map,
virgin to each visitor brave enough
to challenge claustrophobia in its lair.
A sign along the highway, that was all
until debate and then decision came to bear
Let’s do it. Why not?
Turn around and then turn in.
Meet the owner, part time farmer on the surface,
buy a ticket, that was that.
What are we in for?
We will see if there is light.
Hole in hillside, not even mountain;
there goes preconception
based on movies, novels, fancy,
half recalled geology.
Besides claustrophobia, darkness has within it
blindness and its hazards.
We entered into light:
with the light bulbs, here and there above,
Christmas lights in monochrome,
soon illumined crystal,
a palace for a pharaoh
long departed for a less prosaic place.
We were alone, we three,
confronting time in amber.
Within the space beneath the ground
pregnancies of ancient stone
sub rosa to the casual stroller
on the upper two dimensions.
Within its cloistered air,
sheltered coolness on the hottest day,
and peril driven urgency.
The mind, the heart, alarms pre-set
by panic stricken hands
attached to body, bound to mind
awaiting end of clenching dream
Go back! Go up!
And out- away!
And that was just the first few steps
as we walked beneath
the underside of forest,
spiderwebbing tree roots
tendrilled on mosaic ceiling.
Too soon the sun became
a fading memory
upon a dimming atlas.
How long can breath be held,
how briefer just the thought of it
before panic’s rictus begins a scream?
The crystals were a wonder,
so many different sizes,
all kin within extended family
quietly living in seclusion.
(They grow, ergo they live.)
Everywhere they were,
bars of their own zoo,
yet any of them free to go with us
if we should choose
and pay for them.
There were small pools,
full of jewelry reflected
back and forth
and up and down
around their chambers,
with icicles drooping overhead,
stalactites taking centuries
to meet stalagmites below,
their more earthy, troll-like brethren.
And then a lake,
godmother of those pools,
cathedral after trail of shrines,
magnifying reflected light
appearing to create it.
Just the same I prayed
long life to generator
despite the flashlights in our hands.
This was glory, subterranean,
underground, ignored, unknown.
How can mundane life go on
without the knowledge being known
that this is here,
and all else is there?
This is mystery itself, revealed,
and no one else to know it,
but we three,
and who are we in comparison?
This is too much to behold,
to see, to witness,
much less comprehend.
Cathedral, temple, shrine
If offered passage to the moon,
don’t bite the hand that feeds you,
ask not how you’ll get back,
not even whether.
This is moon
and we are within it
if we are counseled by our fear,
cowered by our rationality,
now freed without claustrophobia,
a lesser, human thing.
The wonders grew to be our larger preoccupation.
Our guide was kind to us,
with experience, understanding,
steward of this under-earth,
a warden, ranger
shepherding us onward
in parenthesis of the visible
tunnel of light and sight
within a midnight sea,
no longer stranger to his captive guests,
all strangers now within a strange land.
He chose for us, confidently.
Though unexpressed for now
our gratitude lay in the future
where we would thank, remembering,
that we took courage without retreat
into the spooky murk of pyramids,
trusting that our voyage
into the bowels of the earth
would not prove terminal or fatal.
Eventually we turned about
and headed back reluctantly
toward what we once considered home.
(Where had the time all gone?)
Though yet majestic, every step along the way
we knew and felt we were receding,
disconnecting by degrees
regret and disappointment enveloping
a sense of loss, a mounting emptiness
as if returning from the moon;
(Although still a bit homesick.)
This moon does not come out at night;
you must go in to see it.
Wake up. It’s time.
Waking to a different day
than the one from which we’d taken
an immense vacation.
Then, fresher air begins to stir,
and light joins light until the inner light goes out
and we are snow blind before the real sun.
No tomb behind us.
Our guide turns to padlock
the womb of which he’s guardian.
We’re quiet, the three of us, and silent,
what can be said?
Our guide who’s seen it many times before
has surely seen it once again anew.
And what we’d seen is now behind,
within our eyes
as it had never been before.
It was a gift of time to us,
and something more.
L44 ®Copyright 2012 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.