Stump Cross Caverns

There’s still a week or so to go until we publish the autumn issue of The High Window. As  our site manager will be in the throes of a house move from the north to the south of the country, the exact date may be slightly problematical, especially if there is an internet hiatus. However, in the meanwhile, here is another sneak preview of things to come. It’s one from a group of four poems by Mike Barlow.

Also, in case you are not familiar with the Stump Cross Caverns you can find out more: http://www.stumpcrosscaverns.co.uk

Mike Barlow: Poem

THE STUMP CROSS SYSTEM

Down in the lower levels,
way beneath the show cave
with its carefully positioned lights,
a small passage drops through darkness
at an angle steep enough
for gravity to yank you by the ankles.

But jam yourself halfway
where it opens up
into a chamber round the torso
and you hear your own heartbeat
amplified, as if you
and the earth that bore you
share the same rhythm.

I was sixteen the first time I knew
my heart as both mine
and other
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxthen dropped
deeper through the moor’s
underbelly, its waterworn
shapes and shadows, cave-gems
and chokes, the glisten
and glow from our lamps.

Blind faith and fear in equal
measure held me awestruck.
Without a ball of string, I asked myself,
how would we ever find our way
in such a place, back up through that
stone aorta to the life beyond?

This life beyond, the one I know
as mine yet sometimes other – up here
on the surface where the heart
knows what it’s doing
but something underneath still pulls
like gravity, steadying my tread.

Mike Barlow’s first collection, Living on the Difference, (Smith|Doorstop 2004) won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize. His pamphlet, Amicable Numbers, (Templar 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. His latest collection is Charmed Lives (Smith|Doorstop 2012). He won the 2006 National Poetry Competition. website: www.mikebarlow.org.uk

*****

 

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