Elegy for a Child Trapped Underground

From the Archives

From The Grey Issue

After the failed attempt to crawl up and out
the long neck of the well, I tried telling
forty seven tarnished pennies about you,
about how with you
my arms were two long hallways, my chest
a lit-up crawl space.
How without you
cobwebs spelled their miserable messages
and no amount of breathing could push all the dust
from this hollow haunted room.

Lincoln turned his mossy face away.

What does loose change know about wishes anyway,
though some coins are rubbed so lovingly
they grow faceless and smooth?

I crawled through ten wet tunnels
trying to get back to you.

I’ve been trying to tell you this, how I didn’t make it through
that hole blown in the boulder
to where it seems that the expanse of the sun’s light
must make the sky feel
just like a huge empty room.

But tell me, is that where you are waiting? Holding
a white flag on the other side?
I wonder why not just wait here—
didn’t they always say to stay put, shocked pale, in one place?
Before that hole closed I couldn’t deduce the vulnerability
of night versus day. I revisit
the belly of the well, the pelting of that wishful rain.

Why not stay here
where there’s hope without promise,
just the echo
throwing back every embarrassing word I say?