from Savage Labyrinth

 

In the town each house is a shop or a cave or a home. Each house is a temple: open. 

Simple bed & simple table.

 

In the town each shop holds an alchemist. One can turn enemies into health. One can 

turn poison into soup. One can turn money into a bomb.

 

One has a bag he calls a shop. He carries three items. Two are food, but the food is 

not for you. He teaches you to feed the birds in order to become them.

 

You visit them all. One refuses to sell you anything.

 

You visit a man who can tell you how to keep light in a box. A man who canít tell you 

how to light the beacon.

 

You visit a man who makes the sword with a hammer & coal. Behind the fence, a 

black sow.

 

The sword is sheathed. You walk the town.

 

The streets are filled with women. One woman searches for a necklace in every tree. 

One stares at the sea because she remembers a son. One carries a jug.

 

One stands outside her home & swings her skirt. She wants a ship & a husband. A 

picture of the moon to hang on her walls. She wants the birds to circle her. She hums 

a song that is like no other when sung so low.

 

***


You have been awake for a long time, standing at the mouth of the cave. You cannot 

hear the water anywhere. You enter the cave. The cave is the eroded chambers of a 

mountain. Here is a stone that will become a gem in time. You can bypass time with 

your sword.

 

You enter the cave & the cave is a dark palace. The cave is a dungeon. Here is a skull 

that will become a gem in time. Raise your sword.

 

The cave is full of fire. The jars are on fire & enemies hide inside. There is fire in the 

floor of the cave; there are entire pillars of fire. The rooms are dark but the fire 

lights your way. The jars are full of sticks & you light a fire. You swing the fire at 

enemies already on fire. Perhaps they are made of fire. It is too dark to tell. You are 

burning yourself into the battle.

 

The cave is a house & the doors all close behind you.

 

The map knows the cave but you do not. It indicates something serious but you 

don't yet know what. Everywhere you go you the map says you have already been. 

You remember none of it. The doors open & close. None of them lock behind you. 

Everything you fight through the map says you have already won. You are still 

fighting.

 

The center of the palace could be anywhere. This is not an orderly house. The map is 

clear but it offers no more assistance.

 

The fire shudders everywhere & you confuse one room for the next. Have you been 

here before or are you here now.

 

The fire melts & reforms the stones around you. Some of the stones persist. They 

make the soft sound of a bridge. You are trying to follow where you are meant to 

cross.


There should be a key but there is a stone door. It lifts in silence. You have not 

listened to the map. The final form of the fire is sand: a swept clean floor.


________________________________________


Lisa Ciccarello is the author of three chapbooks: At night (Scantily Clad Press, 2009), At night, the dead (Blood Pudding Press, 2009) & the upcoming Sometimes there are travails (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Handsome, Clock, Tin House, Sixth Finch, H_NGM_N, Lungfull, Poor Claudia, & Corduroy Mtn., among others.