by Christian P. Knoeller

For centuries no on noticed the opening:
this gap in the ground
little more than ledge.

Maybe one day you meet strangers here
preparing to descend together and
they ask you along.

In borrowed overalls, you run a rope
around your belly, through
the legs and with

a clever hitch your body becomes a counter-
weight in this primitive clockwork
of lives descending in the dark.

The first pitch is vertical: suspended,
you grasp how fear and trust are
tethered to your gut.

The creatures here are curiosities: blind
as bats yet listening to what
you do not know.

In this lightless place, anything human
could offer comfort, even old coals
cold as death yet

all you find is mud, stone, the occasional
crevice where water
pools. The group

gathers to watch sightless fish dart,
enchanted by bright reflections
of head lamps, flamelike

against the contours of this inverted
world. By now, the only way back
is to remember.

About the Author:

Christian Knoeller served as Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, teaching literature and writing. His work has appeared--or is forthcoming--in such journals as: Ascent, The Connecticut Poetry Review, Cutbank, Ellipsis, Folio, Greenfield Review, GW Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Midwest Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Visions International, West Branch Quarterly, and Willow Spring, among others, as well as Upriver 5: An Anthology of Wisconsin Writing. His chapbook, Song in Brown Bear Country, was published by Devil's Club Press of Juneau, Alaska. Mr. Knoeller, who holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley as well as an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon, is presently completing a research study on classroom discussion of literature for SUNY Press and, in addition, a college textbook on the teaching of creative writing in conjunction with the study of literature in the secondary schools, to be published by Allyn & Bacon in 1997.