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"How to Build a Cave" by Mary Christine Delea

Secure darkness during the daytime—

tempt the moon down so that it cracks a hillside,

dispensing night into rock.

Search for soft mud and large feathers,

discarded bird nests, shells, and large palm fronds—

they are the treasures a proper cave needs.

Capture some fog, old animal bones—

enclosed, they will dance furiously as if stuck

in a washing machine.

Smooth the walls of your space—

saliva and dew, hands freckled with liver spots,

and constant, circular strokes.

Sense what remains outside as you

make your cave your own—cast a spell to keep

your space free from intruders.

Know that nighttime can be permanent

in a cave—your time inside will give you dreams

in which you fly to the stars.

Consider putting in a door to signal

to others that not everyone is welcome, that the sun

remains an enemy—

that the shedded skin of snakes

is more important than company, and that shadows

are only darkness crying in the light.

Mary Christine Delea has a Ph.D. and is a former university professor. Her poems have appeared in a full length collection, The Skeleton Holding Up the Sky, three chapbooks, and numerous journals and anthologies, including most recently and upcoming in Blood Orange Review, [alternate route], The HitchLit Review, and Clamor. She does volunteer work for a variety of nonprofit organizations. Her website includes a blog where she posts poems she likes twice a week and writing prompts every Sunday; the site is found at

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