Tennessee Is The State With The Most Caves

I saw that on the internet,
so of course I’m taking it at face value.
It’s a good thing, at least,
For a home that usually rings in shameful red
on any given U.S. data map.
Not dunce-cap red, burning cheeks, glaring.
I reinvent Tennessee salamander-red,
That brings us to the mouth of the cave:
always unassuming.
I’ve clambered into several.
The guide had us shut off our headlamps
and waggle our fingers in front of our faces.
Then, he asked how many could see our hands.
He said that for the first time in our lives
we had just experienced absolute darkness;
those with phantom digits would be the first to go mad.

Press your ear to the ground,
in any holler worth its salt,
to hear the timeless rush.
Trace the lifeblood to its source.

i’m sorry it had to end this way

they call you “the vine that ate the south,”
and other unsavory taunts,
but i call you my savior.
you never asked to devour the soil of these shores.
let me lay down in a bed of you
and you could eat me alive, for a change.

megacopta cribraria – the kudzu beetle – was my father.
please, don’t use my government name.
i betcha thought they’d welcome you,
with southern hospitality’s molar-wide smile,
all the sunlight that drips from its lips
to fall on sidewalk dandelions.

i imagine i am the quintessential american
gagging on the dreamscape of china-made fireworks
(our neighbor. do you miss her?)
if they’d let me, i’d be a good patriot,
dutifully ending the evening with fewer fingers
than i began it with.

i guess i thought the din would quit.
maybe it’s only an echo now, from far on your captors shores:
less fireworks, more cicadas.
they are hearty things like you, aren’t they?
seventeen years underground.
there is so much they’ve missed.

the end of the world brings radium-white sunsets,
charlatans and deities, and those who are both.
the old mountain graveyards are lucky enough to be forgotten.
you know the ones, out in the sticks an overgrown half mile
behind what used to be your pa’s house.
the new dew no longer corrodes their granite faces.

i’ll miss it all, my friend.