July 2018, during the
Thailand Cave Rescue

This is the prayer of all parents
in whispers, in screams, in the near-silent
gasp sinking to groan outside the dark cave
of the dead and the maybe-gone (who can tell
what the gruesome air is chewing), the unknown
hovering its blind hope too high,


too high. This is your language; this
mine, lament swirling the undercurrent
of belly, twisting the tunnels’ neck
into blind holes, dead ends,
while the now-maimed but still
living parents beg, “Arise, come forth!”

“Come forth!” the doctor-priest I don’t know
commands my child, who has barricaded
herself behind boulders of her own making—
too large. “Too large,” she cries when the divers
swim under, around; instruct her to breathe
more deeply the length of her labyrinth

that turns now into stones not thrown
but shouldered by the belief of swimmers,
by the petitions of ancients, by the precise
calculations of strangers marking the thin space
between supplications rising daily
in a common language of grief

or relief swallowed again and again in the narrow
cavern of waiting, someone else’s words
bobbing steadily in the dark night of the cold,
the faithful ritual of rescue ready to begin
again for this child, and this one, and even
mine, miles below belief and barely breathing.

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