Tim J. Myers
First Cave Salamander Discovered, 1689
I tell you this only because I’m old, my friend,
and no on will care what an old man says.
Besides, for sixty years we haven’t kept
a single thought from each other. And I find
my thoughts grown strange.
You see, I thought I knew the world—
the habits of men and animals,
the seasons always circling back, nothing
new under the day’s light, as Scripture tells us.
I was a faithful steward of all God gave:
my title, my inheritance,
my vast estate with its fields, orchards, woods,
my halls of plank and stone, my bondsmen.
And sun in its unchanging round, moon in change unchanging:
wax and wane were all I knew,
and the word of Holy Church.
Keep this close to you; there is no need
to trouble the people with odd musings.
But I can’t forget the thing I saw.
I went down into the cave, you know, by the quarry,
broke off the little stone tower
from the damp floor where the sound of moving water
came gurgling from some hollow beneath,
and the buried stream rushed out, dark and cold,
and the creature.
There in the torchlight we gasped, Lucaj and I.
It was pinkish-white, the color
of the Madonna in the village church—
as long as my arm—a water lizard-
and there were no eyes in its head.
I swear it!
I held its slippery length against my doublet
as Lucaj counted: three toes on its front feet,
two on the hind! What
unheard-of dragon was this, we asked ourselves,
having seen with our own eyes
how it dribbled like spittle up from the new-torn mouth.
There in the leaping shadows,
with that white life squirming in my hands,
water in torch-lit droplets falling to bare stone,
had never known the world.