Poets for Science
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Cosmic Cave

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for Rachel, who took me there

I was less taken with the cave lake being bottomless

than with the stalactites becoming

stalagmites in its mirror and all of us bent

over the rail, staring at our death masks.

Maybe I’d descended into one cave too many.

It’s not that I don’t tremble or have had enough

of the holy, but splendor and reverence

have come to quicken my pulse with shame.

Then there was the slit traveling the cavernous roof

for miles, hedged with ‘straw’ stalactites

that grow one inch per hundred years,

their sesquicentennial presence “proof” we were safe.

She won’t jilt us, joked the guide.

Young and beautiful Rachel, like you I was seething

at how prisoners forced to build the cement platform

on which we stood were mentioned as a fun fact.

Were the thirty still on death row among them,

have those freed brought their kids to the Cave

to see the platform and from it heard, as we did,

how rainbow trout were released into this lake,

home to blind fish, how the latter were killed

not knowing by whom or why, how it did not

work out well for the new occupants either?

Without flow, trapped in stasis, their eggs rotted.