Life in the Grotto
Dark, dank, it holds history.
It has risen, fallen, fallen into disrepair.
Stones have been carted off to build their frankenhouses.
Bandits have hovered in the night
waiting to separate their Victorian adventurers from their purses.
The homeless have huddled here,
tiny fires smudging the walls in the Roman night.
Today tourists come
to gape at the circus home of the famous and fallen.
You come too
and the grotto feels all too familiar.
The dampness seeps into your bones.
The broken statue feels eerily familiar,
eerily like yourself, not quite whole.
You wait for the demons.
They live here. They always have,
even the great Augustus had them,
creatures of the night, gentle and brutal,
capable of murdering marble,
the leavers of wounds.
There is an altar in the grotto.
You are tempted to pray,
to sprinkle the holy water that seeps down the wall
into the air like some pagan baptism.
But you do not.
This is what you have learned.
The demons live within
and that is where the battle is fought,
with or without tourists,
so you can see this grotto for what it is,
a thing of history,
incapable of holding you.
About this poem
The picture is of the Emperor Augustus’ home in Rome on Palatine Hill overlooking the forum. Augustus was the first emperor of Rome.
I began writing this blog eleven or twelve years ago as therapy, literally. My therapist wanted me to begin writing again, believing righty that I needed to write to find my way through my darkest times. She also, again rightly, understood that I would probably not do it if I had to do it for myself. But if I put it “out there”, I would feel responsible to continue, even if I only had a couple of regular readers. In the beginning, that’s all I had.
Those of you who have read me for a while have been my tourists, sharing my staggering journey with me. Thank you for not being scared away. The demons are a smaller lot, knowing you are looking.
I believe that.