Someone standing at the mouth had
the idea to enter. To go further
than light or language could
go. As they followed
the idea, light and language followed
like two wolves—panting, hearing themselves
panting. A shapeless scent
in the damp air …
Keep going, the idea said.
Someone kept going. Deeper and deeper, they saw
others had been there. Others had left
objects that couldn’t have found their way
there alone. Ocher-stained shells. Bird bones. Grounded
hematite. On the walls,
as if stepping into history, someone saw
their purpose: cows. Bulls. Bison. Deer. Horses—
some pregnant, some slaughtered.
life seemed wild and alive, moving
when someone moved, casting their shadows
on the shadows stretching
in every direction. Keep going,
the idea said again. Go …
Someone continued. They followed the idea so far inside that
outside was another idea.
“The Cave” by Paul Tran. Copyright © 2019 by Paul Tran. Originally published in Poetry magazine, October 2019. Used with permission of the poet.
This poem was originally read in the Poetry Unbound episode “Paul Tran—The Cave.”