For Lois McNair Van der Leun who has gone home.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.” — C. S. Lewis
The first time down the path
The cave is hidden from your eye.
You wander in a deep ravine
That frames a slice of sky.
Your unsure step will stumble
Where lizards prance on leaves,
But still His stream will carry you
Through the shadow-stippled breeze.
You’ll come to where the bathers bare
Sun themselves on steaming stones,
And one child’s laughter scintillates
Like water flowing over bones.
Oak roots reach down across the rock
And map the drift of streams.
The bathers loll within their sleep,
And reflect the shape of dreams.
Snakes and crickets search the seams
Of granite eons made,
While leaves slip through the air to spin
On water stained with shade.
The solid rock betrays your feet.
Your steps become unsure.
The raven on the boulder bows.
His wings begin to stir.
The grass bends down before the wind.
The ferns bow in the fading light.
The clouds retreat, the stars emerge,
The ravine is draped with night.
But in such night what light awaits
This dust of dreams on bone?
The path leads back to His high home
Through a forest turned to stone.
A rushlight glows within the dark
On the far side of His stream.
It is the cave, unnoticed Then,
Containing Now this life of Dreams.
A figure — phosphorescent, frail —
Will bid you to assume
That all within is as without —
As tunnel echoes tomb.
You’ll see within large shifting shapes
Of cities and of scenes
Remembered only as a film
Shown but once behind a screen.
You’ll hear the songs of sailors,
Songs of women, songs of war.
Your step will freeze, your head will turn,
Your hand will find an ancient door
That leads you to a steaming room
Where pale shapes writhe and wheeze,
While from below a gray mist floats
Upon the fetid breeze.
The chink of money, the lure of love,
Will fill your straining ears,
And you will hear your own voice say,
“Is all that is as it appears?”
Awake! A far bell coming closer
Along the path of night,
In passing lights the lamps of stars
To guide you from this sight.
All is not as it appears.
All is as made and nothing more.
Within that cave confusion reigns
Upon the stained and skull-strewn floor.
Step back beneath the stars, step back.
Reclaim your second sight,
Fare forward far upon that path
Towards His lantern and His light;
To where His sunlight falling sings,
To where His wind sleeps in the tree,
Where the thought that thinks of thought is drowned
In the Mansions of His sea.