Quickwords Vol. 6 – The Caverns

Welcome to Volume 6 of Quickwords, my poetry series. Of all the volumes thus far, this one probably contradicts the name of the series the most.

Bordered by a cove of jagged brown rock, gazing out through a massive cave. Light of an exit shines far in the distance.

| In a heart of the Earth |

Pellucid beads of terran ichor trace eroded rock
They travel in a long destiny of perpetuity
Humble to continue a beautiful journey that will never end
The former raindrops course telluric fangs and leap into the serene chasm air
Then fall into prismatic beams of a distant sun
Their union brings a flash of luminance upon wide, welcoming arms of stone

Sprouts who smile at the slivers of sunshine now giggle
Every dance of bent light is like a kick of spice to a decadent meal
Their sighs of joy spread positivity and comfort
Which small, skittering companions accept with gracious wonder
Then use as they scuffle about
Their tiny, delicate bodies snipping at sprouts and smaller neighbors

As the droplets plop in calm, crystalline puddles of their precursors
The cave continues to breathe
Sprouts and their microscopic friends smile at their solar meal
And pay their respectful duty to the dining of others
The creatures eat and scamper about, living lives of simple work
And when they finally rest, they lend their bodies
To the very neighbors from which they had taken life
Life returns, sprouts grow, miniscule bits of nature animate

What were once and what forever will be raindrops continue to leap from terrene jaws
Each gentle plop like the tick of a second hand
In a heart of the Earth, countless cycles continue

| the caverns |

It gave a child a toolbox and let him surrender to impulse
The pursuit of all that glimmers
He desired to have that meaningless title, winner
though he neglected the blatant arrogance that detests most,
he, like all, held a destructive narcissism

It watched as he struck a pickaxe into rock
The fervor against that which he called bored
To get away, he assailed the earth in search of ore
his understanding of the tools before him was only to hit
Hit, hit, hit, and do so
with reckless abandon

It watched as this boy grew older and wiser
He realized, in milestones of clarity, the mess he had made
Tunnels formed in disorder
Walls made to crumble
Paths buried in rock
Foundations left unstable

Lost, he was, always had been, only now to realize
Years had he dug himself deeper
he questioned the value of the treasures found
Some were mystical, brilliant gemstones, unparalleled in subjective value
Others were flecks of metal with no worth beyond allure to an infantile mind

It watched him descend deeper, both into earth and madness
Perhaps there was a way out, he reasoned
Direction was furtive and a beguiling herring of crimson
He trekked old paths and met only dead ends and walls of crumbled rock
Nothing remained to adorn the earth but the cracks he had left
Few true treasures had ever been, and he now possessed them

He whistled as he walked in the shadows of the caverns
flipping bronze coins belonging to long obsolete systems of currency
Heads or tails determined right or left at every turn
this got him nowhere

A search for new strategy saw that he began to tap the walls
He began to push boulders and clear blocked tunnels
Perhaps this could free him
Perhaps this plan could work

It watched as the earth caved in on him
As rocks crushed his chest and squeezed the air from his lungs,
he spat obscenities on feeble breaths, cursing that which had allowed him
to dig himself so deep into the caverns
It watched him as he cursed at it
It did nothing.

He crawled out of the rubble and stumbled on healing bones
He panted on ragged breaths and searched for water — a spring, a ravine, anything
to replenish the tears he had lost
With every slow step he feared another collapse
Feared if this was to be his life
Wandering the caverns in desolation, ever vigilant for a collapse
Always on alert, just to make sure things did not get worse than they already were
He dared not move any rock, nor knock on any wall, nor so much as nudge any boulder
He could not run the risk

Grief became anger.
Why had that strategy failed?
He had made an attempt at extrication but had succeeded only
in excavation
New holes and cracks littered the caverns
He had failed. He had no strategies left.
But he did not want to remain
The caverns were a prison in which he was sentenced to life
It had given him these tools and allowed him to recklessly dig
and now he was here, trapped

He slowly began to dare once again
Rocks he dared move, walls he dared knock upon, boulders he dared push
The prospect of eternal damnation infuriated him
Die he would not until every option had been exhausted
Just as him

Many cave-ins were small, but there were cave-ins nonetheless
He continued to unravel the terraneous web into which he was strung
His hands and arms protested
He choked upon dust, too parched to cry

When he picked up the tools that he believed had doomed him
and splintered walls and smashed through blockades of debris
he thought back to that which he had cursed in times of catastrophic collapse
That which had given him these tools
and allowed him to dig himself so deep into the caverns

Whispering into dusty air, he said,
“Thank you.”
For though it had allowed him to fail, it had given him the instruments of success
Though it had made him into a problem, and it offered no solution
It never did, not to anyone
But it gave him the ability to solve himself

He swung his pickaxe onto stone
He stomped his shovel into dirt
He utilized the instincts that his journey had brewed in him
to move boulders
to climb steep cliffs
to evade falling stalactites
to navigate fields of stalagmites
he undid the destruction he had wrought upon himself

The toolbox it had given him was not a weapon of destruction
Just as It, the toolbox was neutral
Saw no unnecessary evil but no unconditional good
It did nothing but watch
What he did with what he was given was his own decision
He had allowed it to be a curse
He now made it into his blessing

Experience many more cave-ins he did
Crushed under tombs of rock he was
Starved and dehydrated he found himself to be
Exhausted, muscles burning, always vigilant, he had to be
But as days the caverns seemed less dark
Light came from nowhere detectable
He did not notice that he was in sunshine
until he paused to step back from the rock around him
and saw that he was no longer in the caverns

He was in mountains, gorgeous, impossibly majestic mountains
He saw cascading waterfalls and coursing rivers and beautiful lakes
He saw verdant forests and flocks of birds and herds of beasts
He saw humble villages and mighty cities and soaring planes over roaring plains
And he breathed fresh, brisk air

On he trekked through life
He did not abandon the toolbox; instead, he found its many uses
Those instruments of his ability he used in countless ventures
Hidden crystals and treasures did he find with a miner’s talent
Mazelike woods did he navigate with instincts long cultivated
Frigid, dire straits did he swim with muscles toned from his efforts
City lights did he appreciate with eyes trained to find glimmers of hope
Catastrophes he did endure with the hardened heart he held

It watched him through all
It had given a child a toolbox and let him surrender to impulse
It had watched a man survive his first of many trials
The caverns.

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