Cave of the Apocalypse
Whenever it happened, the cavern would illuminate
from no source. The air would dry and warm,
the hair along my arms slightly rising.
There was a living pressure, a vibration in the air,
a vibration I couldn’t name or grasp or articulate.
The rock ceiling, now cloven into three sections,
would warp from images I couldn’t see clearly,
but presence was there. The small cavern
grew crowded with nobody. The master
would call out to what he saw, trembling
and strong. My skin would redden
as I wrote down and wrote down furiously.
I saw double. I saw as through a flame
warping the air around it, the heat trace,
the heat signature, the mystery whispered
outward, the transcendence of the master in fire,
the dust of light that swirled and settled on me.
I saw no bodies but glimpsed their shadows moving,
as if sight were through a veil of smoke, the wicklight
flickering on the stone walls. The master would wobble
to the edge of the cliff and not see the cliff.
He would gesture and move his mouth,
calling into a whirlwind. I would steer him
back to safety, then pick up the reed again.
And the shadows and the light. The world
was residue. The world, a pressure of stars,
carbon and diamonds. Oh, God, oh God, the armies
of the invisible felt. I hugged my sides, no words
left in my hands. And when he silenced,
the throbbing would continue, lessening
to the pulse in my temples. Beyond simile,
beyond anything, it was like this.
It was like this and it was like nothing else.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.