To Jules Verne
By Gene Twaronite
Dare I follow the cryptic runes of Saknussemm,
descending into the shadow-kissed crater
to follow unknown tunnels to the center?
Why undertake a journey
so inconvenient or improbable?
One does not need to climb
a volcano in Iceland to find
pathways worthy of exploration.
Indeed, why journey at all
and not let Life come to us
in prepackaged servings?
And what’s so great about a point
equidistant from the ends?
Surely there are plenty of things
to be found in the prelude—
those first few tentative steps in the darkness
when the enormity of your task
fills the heart with dread and you
wish you’d never left home.
But, tired and thirsty, you plug on
through the arid lonely tunnels
until realizing you’re hopelessly lost.
And let us not forget the finale.
Isn’t getting there what really counts?
Just tell me how it ends.
Did they meet their fate bravely?
Did they finally escape?
Did the love birds get married?
And was there some purpose to it all?
But the poem knows otherwise.
Only in the center will you find
subterranean caverns bathed in strange light,
vast oceans teeming with sea monsters,
forests filled with petrified trees, mastodons,
man-apes, and other creatures from your past.
There you must come to terms
with whatever perils lie in wait
around the next bend.
No one can save you from yourself.
It will all end here, lost and forgotten
in the bowels of an unexplored world,
or you’ll take the journey to its conclusion,
your raft swept by the rushing waters
into the volcano’s chimney,
carried on a rising surge of magma
by the primal heat of creation—
up, up, up until ejected in elation
into the clear blue sky above Stromboli.