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New Year's Eve

December 31, 2017

It was near nightfall
when we descended upon the cave,

its opening a broad maw
like the mouth of a catfish,

tapering into deeper reaches
of darkness


We crawled up to the basin -
a small pool, no larger in diameter

than a dinner plate, its depth
at most six inches.
It was unclear how it formed,

whether by time, wind, and water,

or perhaps shaped by human hand

to gather the scant drops
of water that seeped
from the dank stone.


We knelt down
in the failing light
of dusk, headlamps illuminating

the portal before us
and began to draw water
in slow steady pulls,
just enough
to last us the night.


When the vessels were full

we used our hands to

scoop out gobs of clay and silt
that had settled in the bottom,
so that more water might be waiting

for whoever might come next
with their thirst.
I thought perhaps it could be
the dam black bear, whose tracks

and claw drags I had seen here once

in the fine mud of the floor

alongside smaller marks,
those of her cubs.


When we crested the rise

into view of our camp,

we beheld a room
high on the cliff

aglow in orange flicker

against the night,
a fire awaiting us,
and companions

tending it.


Can you
taste the way
in which this sequence

destroyed my


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