Alice Underground

This poem won Third place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2011

Night-blind she fingers the rosary, wraps it round,

mumbles prayers by rote.  Only the feel of the beads

slipping through fingers, knots to climb. Railing to cling to

as stairs wind steep. Her friends urge her forward, down,

loosely grip elbows to wing-tip angles to save her

from uncertainty.  Footing scuffs rough on oozy cave floor,

kicked pebbles rattle.  Worries niggle and quibble.

Fear dampening her hair, her lips peel back to a rictus grin.

Fish skeleton preserved on cave walls, flat like a leaf.

Grey green ice masquerading as stone.  Or bone.


Quiver of ancient cold in her gut, but on her skin

the air is sulphurous windigo-breath. Stone world

cave emulsive.  Cave visions, an eye within a sleep.

Alice underground, no dream of fairy cakes, treacle tarts

as she falls.  Feel her cascade down the nightmare spin

to a stop.  Limestone sandwiched below surface, obsessive

compulsive dis-ordering,  Calcified, convulsive ice

growing, lurking.  Drips jerky in faint light, cave eyes.

Words bounce off their own echoes.  Her pulse impels

motion, compels flight from the lingering clammy touch.


Steps further, cool ribbons ruche the midnight shroud,

mar its greasy oilcloth sheen.  Chimney-drawn air

opens vaster caverns in the dimness.  Stalactites,

stalagmites gleam graceful.  Paradoxical helictites twine

sideways.  She breathes air-borne nursery tales – a nanny

aloft with parrot-handled umbrella, a bear (tut-tut)

on a balloon, a web word-woven in the breeze,

ships, carpets, beds that flew.  She inhales a split second

helping of equilibrium.  New springs begin to trickle,

flow.  She draws sweet stuff from the wonderland well.