Daniel Tobin

March 23, 2020 Tobin Daniel


Ailwee Cave

You want to fathom me,
a frozen waterfall,
as you lean along the rail
and the slim line lulls
to that guide gargling on
about time scales bigger
than you can hardly reach
your outstretched arms around,
or your mind, that’s smaller
than my immensity.
Allow me, if you would,
to illuminate your lapse—
a nacreous leap in this
cave’s ablative light.
I am, in truth, a river,
the roving rock’s white verge
born of rain and earth-melt
from first beginnings.
These stalactites took
no time compared to me.
I patiently have poured
perpetually in night,
at once wick and candle
self-lit, self-sustained,
a shaman-wash of wall
long-hushed but listening.
I speak to you now as one
who has earned knowledge
of the constant miracle,
its calm, its winnowing.
Turn off your flimsy torch,
stand awake, attend
to all that runs under,
including your negation
curled there in the bear beds,
a blindness ready to wake
the way your wary eyes
would whiten if you stayed—
here, where I live forever
and will after you leave
for the slight life of your days,
your dream of sunlight.
I am the stone-stillness
borne by what runs beyond,
the swell, the swim, and trickle,
the tidal eternal,
the abyssal that abides
across, alone, to you—
this endless echo forming
from the fluent dark.

Daniel Tobin is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Belated Heavens (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry), The Net, and From Nothing, as well as the critical studies Passage to the Center and Awake in America: On Irish-American Poetry.  He is the editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola RidgePoet’s Work, Poet’s Play and The Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge (Spring 2017). His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.