||[May. 30th, 2016|01:37 am]
'Been down under the earth. Seen what's there.'|
Your eyes are birdlike, black as a cave.
'Places the air's terrific calm. Places where wind don't blow back the sand and the spiders and where the day does the night's work, where fire bores a way through leaves of stones.'
How long's it been?
'A charcoal's age. Two thousand years.'
I've lived mornings longer.
'Here's what I do: I coil cavelengths of tunnels to a single clutch, and then fling them back over my shoulder like a cord of tapertip rushes. If you walk a cave inward you come to the roots. If you move outward again along the same path you come into flowers. I saw rushes on the stones of pharaoh's palace, sweet-smelling like poems are, like brightness is at the rainy mouth of a long cave. And then snakes took their place again, whirling, widening and turning upon each other, until one devoured the rest and this was taken as a sign, which it was. Been under the earth and been through every tunnel but then found my way back there was only one.'
There's no exit to any cave, no way out.
'The way out's the way back. The mountain shows first in the lake reflected and then the lake becomes the stars. The maze resolves itself: the sky is the rain's weight.'
Let's go back to the cave.
'I've mapped it for you.'
It resembles something monstrous.
'It is a monster. I passed others coming the other way, not many (not as many as the crowd that followed, not so many). Voices echoed ahead, a half-mile or so, and I heard them all as one, indistinct as a roar. And then, as they came closer, as the firelight pitched past the curve ahead, their voices began to divide, one after another, one rose and another fell, one was high and another low, one nervous and another at ease, and then they appeared, one after the other, like stars coming on, their words met each other in galaxies of relation, splash concentrics of lava after it's burnt redder than a blessing and the flying things, the moths, meet and pass over it in the dark. And then their voices receded again, and recombined but differently, newly, in thought of that first roar. The thought of that first infernal unity coming to mind as a second one, now strange because now celebratory. After a set of variations, there's always one detail that, though coming late, precedes the theme itself in newness. And ever after it makes statement echo and re-echo, until nothing that is satisfies, nothing read refers, nothing called evokes. Each journey back inverts the day.'
A thunderhead appears, cool as reflection. The mirror as warm current, caged power, loosed without word or word-willing.
'The breeze against your cheek -- feel it! That's a day off the beginning.'
Breath, meadow... What was it at the end of the cave?
'Details. Someone'd etched in pumice stone a few symbols, one like a gamma. As though a battle might once have been fought and won here, death to a city held off a few moments before the enemy surged on under the plaza and then the palace... The cave halved itself into upper and lower levels. To continue you either had to climb or stoop. If you stooped down you'd feel the dust and sand of old mudflows, the false ceiling an inch above your head like coals in the bottom of a firepit (I remember building a fire after I learned how, and sleeping out on a bed of moss I don't know how long ago: in the morning I had a few hot embers, ashes left of the night, the fire-feeding night). Traceries of stars and comets over the roofs of caves: here they were close, you could even touch them (they were fire once, too: against your own light they draw back into a further dark). Getting to the end of this crawlspace there was a small chamber, nothing much to speak of. A slit below the floor showed the cave probably went on, but the drift of sand and the flow of sediment from old floodings had formed a bank against further passage.'
You might have begun to dig.
'I saw grylloblats surgeon their way through the slit, violent remedies. I was tired, tired as Alice in the fantastic room. Though when I opened my eyes after closing them it wasn't the mice, the little insects I saw passing the verge: I saw a light coming the other way, the light of people following. So I ducked my head and went on shadoward whether up or down I no longer cared.'
This isn't one story but many.
'All are, when we're heading out. On the way back it's reversed. I saw a nuthatch in the tree after climbing the rocks up the mountain. It swung upward and all its hurried, flittery, nervous, watchful ways were contained, contracted in a second. And I heard and I saw all this strange flexioning and line and motion as a single performance, a winged phrase, speech uninterrupted and song a curved dash the mark identifying, and I saw the arc of its flight. How wonderful even these small birds are and can be, just doing their grub-work, cheeping and chipping, and then showing their eyes black as caves, pupil filling all and reflecting back the shine of something that seems to include us--all this in a twitch of light and a flush of wings over the recent-mowed turf, sunny with rain.'
This is right.
'Early mornings when lights pass round the edge of a lake like a trumpet to an empty hall. When stars have a fierce glint like pebbles rained-upon. When something invisible scatters before the hour, spidery polarities dimming in a spiral breeze of stars. There's a legato in unbeginning, a phrased silence, song like a curved dash the mark identifying: between the night and the day is a songbird flitting down the side of a tree.'
A breeze blows. They hold wings, kites aloft and glass them against the earthward edge, where the rain's dark already glozes the soil with dew, showers, drops preliminary to thunder and untold expenditure: here's symmetry I know. The electric silence of the sky, a lake around whose rim the shadows of trees spread.