Jul 14, 2015

Entrance to the Underworld

Written by Gary L. McDowell

Read by Maceo Whitaker

My boy wants to dig to the other

side–Of what, I

ask.To where people are.

How come the moon some days is visible

in the afternoon?What refraction,

what luminosity. Miles down, what’s there

at the bottomof the Earth?

What’s there at the center?Some questions

with answers aren’t worth answering. His imagination

seized–is there a center? He thuds and thuds the dirt

with a spade. I think we’re close, he says. He looks

away, then back againto the dirt.

Does he know

his time is coming? Does he know, the minutes barbed

now, the day years from now when he realizes

there is no center–(or is there?)

I understand that sometimes by looking for something

we invent it:thus one definition

of truth, one version

of vision. I read that the desire to breathe

is our most primitive urge. How loyal we are to what

contains usthough we narrow

toward something finiteor vice versa.

Orange was a fruit before it was a color. When

we were kids, we found

a jawbone in the back-

yard. Explorers. Discoverers. The shoulders of giants, we thought

the Earth had opened her secrets to us,

and maybe she had. History, like poetry, knows nothing

of narrative but is charged with the now.

Everything we touch turns into a downspout. The tree parallel

to where my son digs dropped at my feet last fall

a sparrow’s nest, eggs still unhatched. The mother,

distraught or scared or–had never seen such a thing–

wait I can’t know what she

thought or even if she did.

Mourning, like desire, is light followed by fits of

astonishing darkness–one a hole you climb into,

the othera hole you fall into,

both, like the shadow a ladder casts against the side

of the house, never end, but extend forever. I ask

my son if he ever has nightmares. What’s a nightmare?

It’s a new kind of closeness, an empty house with a boy

in it. A bear drunk on fermented berries, precisely

how we marvel at his heft. What we get for caring.

A river near and far–the unsaid, close, closer. We

cannot musterwhat we’ve lost.

Sometimes I have nightmares with my eyes open.