The Cave – Paul Tran

Someone standing at the mouth had
the idea to enter. To go further

than light or language could
go. As they followed
the idea, light and language followed

like two wolves—panting, hearing themselves
panting. A shapeless scent
in the damp air …

Keep going, the idea said.

Someone kept going. Deeper and deeper, they saw
others had been there. Others had left

objects that couldn’t have found their way
there alone. Ocher-stained shells. Bird bones. Grounded
hematite. On the walls,

as if stepping into history, someone saw
their purpose: cows. Bulls. Bison. Deer. Horses—
some pregnant, some slaughtered.

The wild-
life seemed wild and alive, moving

when someone moved, casting their shadows
on the shadows stretching
in every direction. Keep going,

the idea said again. Go …

Someone continued. They followed the idea so far inside that
outside was another idea.

** Ada Limón:** This is Ada Limón. The Mirror and the Ribbon.

The skull is a myth, the gentle flesh,

eyes black pools in the face’s expanse.

There is a rumor. Do you know it?

Privacy of the body; its separateness.

So serious we take ourselves, our

serious limbs, our serious mouth

making clear delirious sounds, our

hair, the selfish hours of our, our, our.

Question: What if it is not divided?

The I is also the you, the monkey

is also la selva, the leaf, the old man

cactus with its thin white hair, what then

must we call ourselves? The ribbon

is not a lie. The pink cord that weaves

around both the body and the world

is pervasive and shatterproof,

the ribbon unravels beyond the frame

and its persistence, through clock time,

through illusion and emptiness, it is here

now, and it can hear you breathing.