There was no easy entry into its dead-
fish stench,
oozing, slimy seaweed
fleshing its sides and dome in the dank
trapped air.
Low tide, age-old lava
hollowed below a jut—
as I explored near home I found it
big enough to squeeze inside.
Five-year-old shrimp, tenderfoot
spelunker, I thought a good hiding place,
with no wish to forge my own
creation story—like a fetus
chin bent to my chest, arms hugging my knees.
Instead, I came to think of death.

Holding my breath against its stink
I heard the walls hissing as they dried,
the sound of air being strained and sucked in,
leaving little for me, I feared,
curled inside a hole
that soon might fill with water. In the cave
I couldn’t see my shadow
lengthen or shorten. I had no watch.
What if I lose track of time,
get trapped in here and drown?
Would anybody find me?

I counted out a few more heartbeats.
Headlong, head first, thinking that I heard
water lapping, I squirmed
out into fresh air, where the sea stretched
vast and unruffled toward its constantly
unreachable horizon.