Peak Cavern | Angelina D’Roza
At the cavern’s mouth, the last blue rays
snagged on limestone juts and steeples
fall towards me. The wind disrupts
crevice-nests, invisible until feathers
twitch like the drape of the confessional
or the tremor of the penitent, the quick
pulse at the temple – words bottleneck
at the throat, and the light that offered
something like courage seems snuffed,
the moment gone with the fleeing birds.
I wait the hand on mine to ease the shake,
lift the headache, so the words come.
Washing my feet in this underground font,
its cold stone bed smooth on my soles, I watch
but the water doesn’t ripple the way it did
in the White Peak, with no light, black air
shape-shifting when I breathe. The stream
anoints the rocks as it runs through, carving
a path for me to follow, if I can keep faith
however narrow the crags, or deep the river.
There’s a wet slip of stone urging me
further into the cave’s cleft. And an hour
when my eyes adjust – I stare at my hand
and fingers form bone-pale from black.
Milky rocks tumour limestone, burrows
dip and stricture. I follow the tracts, stoop
until this under-earth yawns, hollowing
like a perished tooth rinsed out with rain.
The river stutters as though in prayer.
With my eyes closed, and these words
silting my ear, I settle on cold veins, sleep.
Click here to listen to Angelina D’Roza reading this poem on location in Sheffield. Paul Evans discusses this poem in a recent artist’s talk: you can read the transcript here.