Cave Wall is a poetry journal inundated with the idea that all of us are traveling between borders as well as the metamorphosis such trips often engender. It is the transformative that exists in the perils and joys of every day existence that line the often narrative structures of each poem. The dark woodcuts by Dennis Winston add to this evocative rendering of the every day, whether it is in his piece “Winter Haze” or the melancholy and subdued image of the boy in “Innocence.”
In “El Camino Real” by Carrie Fountain, the heat of the day is a character hovering over the protagonists who are simply attempting to survive its burning gaze while managing to find time to have a philosophical conversation: “In loose reference to a conversation / we’ve been having on and off all summer, / she turns to me and says, ‘OK what if / we’re already dead, and this is heaven?’ The question hangs in front of us, open / And empty, as long as it can. / We walk through it.” This poem seems to refer to the many life questions we face and cannot answer, so often or at least for stretches along the dusty trail, we ignore them until inevitably they rise again like that curve or fork in the road.
In “The Groom,” also by Carrie Fountain, a son recounts how as an infant, he finds his mother’s first wedding ring to a man no one in the family has ever seen a picture of or met at the occasion of his own first marriage, while in “Dead Man Walking” by Sebastian Mathews, a despondent and possibly suicidal father figure is portrayed by his son as a beast : “I could tell you how unhappy I am in my body, / and then now how happy you make me, how / this morning in the center of his room our boy / stopped, looked around in mock fear, finger to lips: ‘Shiiish…there’s a bear over there.’” The first poem dealt with more with matters of life – past life, future life and present life – while the second is about a man who is done with this earth, this life, and ready for an ending.
Poems often attempt to impart messages through the guise of the animal or an inanimate object. With Sandra Beasley’s “To the Lions,” the narrator pleads with the lions, or is it the lions to man or woman, to show us why they are considered king or queen of the jungle. While in “The Sand Speaks,” the sand is an omnipresent god-like being that is seemingly everywhere at all times: “Lovers, shake me / from the cuffs of your pants. Draw / a line, make it my mouth: I’ll name / your country. I’m a Yes man at heart.” The poet here takes an inanimate object and not only adds sensuality to its list of charms and attributes, but humor and humanity as well.
The foundations of this poetry cave’s wall are pretty strong, although, I can’t say that every poem is created equal. Even so, look out for poems by Elizabeth Volpe, Rebecca McClanahan and Rebecca Warren that are also on par with the poems cited here. At times, reading the poems in this accessible assortment is like seeing that first flower crack through the walls separating two lovers until not only is life peeking through to the other side in the form of the flower, but the sunlight as well, which brought the flower to existence in the first place.