A word peeked sometimes from the cave mouth
only to shuffle back, swallowed, sky-shy,
lost in his memory’s russet Lascaux.
The great-granddaughter we set on his lap
played in the far-off, sunlit opening
of a tunnel ninety-one years long,
as noiseless, in spite of the hearing aid,
as a penny striking the floor of a well.
His eyes met ours like a groggy bear’s
as he pulled another stone into place
to seal the entrance to himself, to close
the senses that would not close themselves.
When I say my grandfather passed on
last year, what I mean is, he passed inward,
down the dark slope of a cave, drawn
by the womb rush of a river underground.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 35 Number 7, on page 28
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
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