What Lies Beneath


When the undercurrent is forced up through cracks in the mantle, we act shocked, dismayed, as though it had not been us pouring our detritus into all the caves we found, pressing it down, forcing it in. As though we thought that our quarrying would never lead to collapse, and our fracking to fracture. As though our landfill might remain out of sight and mind and somehow disappear into another dimension, where we would not ever have to deal with it. And under all this too, radioactive cubes pulse and threaten. Contained in concrete, they nevertheless cry out in pain, singing their atomic song, living half lives beneath the seabed.

When the carpet cannot take any more of us walking over it, tripping us up with the bulges of everything we have swept underneath, when we find our heads brushing against the ceilings, we are so surprised. As though every ball of dust and angry word, every oppression and lie, were not one day going to ruck up and seek us out again. Had we not heard of karma, or understood the cyclical nature of things? We heard the gospel of seeking and finding, of reaping and sowing, and thought half of it only applied to other people. So, we bought ourselves treasure maps from charlatans, and the latest drilling equipment. We left our swords as they were, and invested in combine harvesters and pesticides, counting on technology to save us. Or else we stood in our glass palaces and scrabbled for as many stones as we could find, perfecting our throwing arms, keeping ourselves safe.

And now? And now, all the mouths we taped, the voices we silenced, the rivers we dammed, are coming to find us. Their words and songs are rising up and pouring out, and we do not have enough fingers between us to stop up the dyke. The ones who are not like us are coming, and they are strange and frightening. Because they are not all screaming, as we would. They are not all shouting for blood, as we would. They are not many, suing for damages, as we would.

They are softly shod and treading careful, they are listening to one another, like trees rustling messages through leaves and roots. They are letting the truth out, and cocking heads to one side in order to hear the bubbling flow that runs beneath every façade. Some of them are laughing. Actually laughing! And we do not know why. And when one of them stands up, they are quickly surrounded by others, holding hands, lifting hearts, raising roofs. And we do not know why. We cover our ears, because this seems a good policy. We call our brokers, and we lean on the movers and the shakers who have always taken care of us, because this is the only thing we know.

This other kind of power is annoying, like the buzzing of a thousand hives. We don’t know what it wants or what it might take from us. We will fight back. We will shoot in self-defence. But still they keep on coming. Rising up from the depths we sent them to. Writing their stories, singing their protest songs, firing up new generations with voices and guitars, with drums and pipes.

When they smile at us, when they reach out with work-worn hands, but gently, when they see the pain in our eyes and recognise it as a tiny reflection akin to their own, when they show us compassion, as though we might need it, when they talk to us in calm, loving tones of every man-named colour, and some we do not recognise, then, maybe then, we might take one step closer, for there is something here that smells of fresh water, something that sounds like birdsong, something connecting to our hearts like baby’s breath. Our tears begin to fall, and we do not know why.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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