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.