Les Wicks – Down Deep

Les Wicks LEP&W V3 Dec 2022

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Three December 2022.

Down Deep, poem by Les Wicks.

Down Deep


In this cave puzzles wear
molluscs of light.
Our tiny crystalline teeth nip at this plenty.

While those remaining fingers we bear can still wave
still touch a cheek
They can never clamour up or down.
We are & are not stuck.

Beneath our level
a vast subterranean lake throbs with life
but never moves.
We hear its music
but can’t approach, the way is slippery & steep.
Shoes are all worn to worry, we are clothed
in volcanic flakes,
in the dust from bones.

In that water
legends have been dropped down to drown.
Waptia & trilobites archive the atrocity —
colourless, peculiar antennae, protruding jaws —
they have refined their arts of predation
& are a scourge
to the larger ideas.

Rumours have seeped in that
above us are acres of lawn.
Fertilised & trimmed, that ruthless verdancy has ambitions…
already it covers the tiny creek that
had carved its own story out of generations.
Nothing roams this pasture,
the blades are toxic but designated beautiful.

The floor keeps turning to get comfortable,
our city in the cinders.
Men don’t rule here
because the best ferocities work within some order.
Argument thrives
though it often concerns the petty things —
like moss & bat guano. These contentions are
perpetual, unbound… thankless nourishment
to all who cannot stop their forage.
This life is tephra.
We dream of clouds.


Imagine our surprise when we were “discovered”.
The spelunkers in their padded plastic
soon devised a name.
Our gratitude fell like small hard turds
as we realised the poverty we’d suffered
from being uncategorised.

They had planned an educational documentary
world-wide scoop, awards & dollars.
Instead they were edited
into fillets, ate so much we could hardly stand.
Armed now with a name, some of us bore explorer-skin as flags.
In consuming these interlopers we adopted
their consonants & vowels
but unfortunately alongside much delusion.

We have stories, each overhang has bumped so many heads
the narratives are carved on our skulls.
Trip points & sinkholes somehow lure & warn us simultaneously…
a kind of parenting that passes for heritage.
I myself wrote something funny, plucked a fine stalactite
& my scribbles will last forever.


It was time to breed.
We are not savages
though can be savage in our satisfactions.
My approach to a fertility
is part dance, part hunt.
Both of us, the magma of eggs & seed
the ash of our need.

Air here is body temperature —
just waving is to touch, be touched.
We lick that air. It licks us.
Even though now doomed by nomenclature
deep in decay
some things remain pure.
From the darkness of birth canals
to a clean empty of endless night
buddings scuttle across the cave floor.


When we are tired we fall to pieces.
Hours later we rise, scrabble about for composite parts
scattered on the cave floor… there my liver
here my lungs. My mate does the same,
we swap kidneys & laugh
with the smudged innocence of thieving children.

Ignorance & knowledge both weigh
but how they sit on a shoulder
dictates whether scout or slave.

Do you know how long it takes
to collect feathers that have drifted down from the surface
through careful cracks built to miss nothing?
Yes, there is colour here
but it grows slowly within our eyes.
There was once so much
we never missed the sunlight.
A story — many birds once deliberately shed near our crevices.
Their quills married worlds
that were unaware of Other.
Now it is just the starlings
drab & lice-rode,
their poems of desolation.

We send you an anthology of viruses. You reciprocate.
Our offspring have become peculiar.
An extinction event — yours or ours?

© Les Wicks

Les Wicks:  Over 45 years he has performed widely across the globe. Published in over 400 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 36 countries in 15 languages. Conducts workshops & runs Meuse Press which focuses on poetry outreach projects like poetry on buses & poetry published on the surface of a river. His 15th book of poetry is Time Taken – New & Selected (Puncher & Wattmann, 2022).  https://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm

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