We almost fell into it. We were walking with our noses so low to the ground that we didn’t notice the ground was ending. But suddenly darkness. Suddenly space and near weightlessness. We dug in our heels and sat back before it, looked down into its planet-sized mouth. We shaped our mouths to the shape of the pit-mouth, yawned so wide we thought we would split. We built a set of huts next to it, daubed their walls with our muddy handprints. We lit fires and killed wild animals and carved their bones into cudgels, sharpened our eyes until they could wound. From raptors we pulled feathers the length of our arms. When bored, we played augur with our piles of bones, gripped our own thumbs like lucky rabbits’ feet, like tiny warm grenades. At night we stood on the cliffs and looked as deep as we could into the eye of the pit and sometimes thought we saw a pupil of light. What was so bright that it shone up to us at this height? At night we lay with our eyes glazed but open, squeezing our rabbits’ feet until they turned white.
Our torsos were swamps we swam in. All the time surrounded by bog and sphagnum. We knew we would become carbon sinks, but just now we had to keep moving, keep our bog bodies afloat. We thought that maybe time would repair us, but here we were paddling with one wrist loose, a kneecap gone missing. Somewhere, space was collecting all these lost things. We imagined that space as a bog through which they would sink and be held, pickled, in tannic water. That was one of our better thoughts. It helped us live longer. When we found safe places we stopped and buried our faces in the ditches of our hands, deep in their dirt. Water wept through our finger-reeds, seeped through the sedge. While we slept we ran hedge mazes to try to separate ourselves from our peaty, sulfur smell. We had terrible dreams where everything we’d ever lost was returned to us. Some woke with tears in their ears. Some refused to wake at all. Every day someone would sit down in the forest and wait to be eaten by moss. The forest had never been so soft.
Claire Wahmanholm‘s poems most recently appear in, or are forthcoming from, “New Poetry from the Midwest 2016,” Fog Machine, Bateau, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Memorious, The Kenyon Review Online, Handsome, Third Coast, “Best New Poets 2015,” Elsewhere, BOAAT, The Journal, Winter Tangerine, and DIAGRAM.