it’s called flowstone when it
bubbles rock from the wall
and the stalacTites hang Tight from ceiling
and the stalagMites are Mounds jutting up rock hard cylinders
that shine from the oil of a thousand fingers
which could not resist molesting them
and the joke i taught my kids for the test:
when the stalactite dripping down
and the stalagmite reaching up
what do you call ’em?
i say: what do you call ’em?
call ’em?? get it?
and they never get it because
10 year olds don’t know what a column
is but after this groaning joke
they do and will forever
and they know that iron
turns the rock red;
that calcite white is seeping limestone and not ice;
that the green is nickel.
except when it is not.
the nickel now this is an important lesson.
it goes like this:
green is Evidence.
it is not a Proof.
green says: form a hypothesis from the Evidence but
do not be sure. do not reach a conclusion
conclusion being the point where thinking stops.
see green is sometimes moss growing
in the electric light that the park service installed.
so green means: Evidence. Evidence
means there is something more to find out.
the whole year green is a good color even for current events.
i can say: think: about the green think:
is this Evidence?
or is this Proof? and they get it.
and they think.
now there is pluto in that column and there is persephone
the smaller column with the folds of calcite drapery
that has swirls of rusty iron that do not seem to me
the skirts of hell’s wife
and so that is the next lesson:
what do you see in that? is it alive?
is it the front the back the top of its head?
what is its name? is it happy here in the darkness?
what keeps it company? show me its friends
and on and on and i myself well i see the flower petals
which look like a georgia o’keefe which is to say of course
but that is not a thing to say to ten year olds so i say:
it is a tulip
that was drunk and accidentally grew down into the earth
instead of up into the air
but look. see?
it is happier after all to know its roots
are enjoying kicking up at the blue sky
and the tulip will live ten thousand years instead of a spring.
we name everything.
the soda straws and the popcorn and the heart
that never beat a beat
and we make up stories
if we don’t know the science.
it’s dark and damp and 52 degrees in august
and 52 degrees in february
and there has never been a breeze blow here.
you have to count backwards into time eternal
to find the last moment there was some change
some tremor that tripped a triceratops
and collapsed a stone curtain of the cave.
we are less than the dinosaurs here
and i think persephone
and her tulip pity us and our puny
hearts that beat and change
with every thump
and even our stories will change and be gone before
the next breath before we
squint into the fading sun.