Axel Gets Lost in the Cavern in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth by Annie Przypyszny

Here’s what he learned 
about darkness:

it’s not absence.

It’s full
and thick
as stone.

In darkness, 
you try to seal 
your breath
behind your lips.
You fear
you might lose it, 
as you’re losing
your body
and your mind.

you almost touch 
Space is endlessly


If you stay still
for too long, 
the darkness
will swell
like a spider bite
and motion
will go numb.

If you stay silent, 
you’ll hear 
the other noises:
the oily trickling
of time,  
the slosh
of the earth’s rotation, 
the echo
of an echo
as it travels through

the darkness, 
which is not a void
but a forest
where slick branches
reach to stroke you

into submission. 
Don’t be fooled:

isn’t lonely.
It is a fracture 
within loneliness, 
a crowd 
of faceless strangers
lurking from 
the cracks.
They would like
to hold you still.
They would like
to carve you down
to the brightness
of your bones.


Annie Przypyszny is a student at American University, majoring in Creative Writing. She is also the assistant poetry editor for The Adirondack Review. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in 30 North, The Oakland Arts Review, Pacifica Literary Review, ANGLES, North Dakota Quarterly, Ponder Review, and elsewhere.