Field Trip To The Underworld

I follow single file the awkward girl
before me down damp wooden walkways dimly lit
with scalloped strings of incandescent light bulbs

as a guide in cats-eye glasses blandly clarifies
the difference between stalactite and stalagmite,

making this sixth grade, Endless Caverns,
the awful year I couldn’t stop myself from staring at
boys’ crotches. At least it’s dark, at least

those agates shaped like fried eggs make my oddness
almost safe. I keep walking. From this day on

I’ll picture every story of the underworld
in caves like this: Persephone, pale as a shoot,
on a throne between stone curtains, Orpheus

on the walkway where it rises, curves toward
the gift shop, Odysseus weeping in the great room

with his dead. Room after room of emptiness
lies underneath- great vaulted absences, small vacancies
connected by odd passageways, tight turns-

where what’s been washed away
gives way to what’s been washed away,

each loss communicating to the next.
All there in figured residue, drip, drip of years:
the intricate architecture of what’s gone.

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Hayden Saunier is the author of the poetry collection, Tips for Domestic Travel. Her work has been published widely and was awarded both the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Rattle Poetry Prize in 2011. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


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