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.

New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 35 Number 7, on page 28
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com