On Moonmilk (Korolowka, 1943-2022)
by Alexander Hollenberg
Absent the rusty traces of machined tools—
iron axe heads, sawblades, the odd blue shoe,
one could almost be forgiven
for thinking this cave a tableau
of prehistory. Look at how they hibernate:
gauzy skin a sign of light’s
absence and signs of abscess:
their scalps, soles, fingertips, unable
to access modern medical care.
Maybe tomorrow our garden will grow
from the white carbonate mosaic shoring
up the cavern walls, urging
them towards a more satisfying function:
a finger-fluted memorial made
from moonmilk, human testimony
harvested from stalactites.
These are the messages of refugees:
the smear, the scratch, the dye,
milky portraits lurking in the rock
petrified back into literacy.
Still testimony becomes
geology. Explorers will turn intrepidly
to the history of the rock before
that of the stranded.