The parking lot is empty, save the looming statue
of a thirty-foot Indian and the sound of a car door
closing. Decades ago, to fit more tourists,
they blasted the cave entrance, let in too much air.
The ice melted. Now that hole’s been bricked
and a door keeps the cold in place. In the high-desert
half-mile from parking lot to cave, chipped concrete
prehistoric people are the only figures. The last
of the tribe. The squatting woman grips a stone
between her legs and grinds it against another
stone. The man’s hands are shaped to grasp
some spear or staff that has long since vanished.
This is what they do forever, landmarks
where even rivers slip underground. Two years ago,
Christmas, a car slid into a snow bank down the road.
The children’s pictures were front page
the next day, when the girl’s body was found.
The father had stayed behind with the car,
let the children set out to their mother’s, ten miles
away in the storm. They made snow angels at first.
In court, the father struck his head against the table
while a lawyer defended we all put our children
at risk, toss our babies in the air and expect
to catch them. Behind the door to the cave, ice
is building another frozen lump in the desert’s gut.
A gift shop vintage postcard depicts a girl ice-skating
in the cave "even if outside the temperature reads 100."
She has cut faint trails into the ice. Her scarf is
spun out behind her perfect frozen pirouette.
At the cave entrance, the concrete woman grinds
her stones and the tour guide tells the story
of an Indian Princess preserved inside. But it was only
a few years ago the cave thawed out and nobody emerged.
Bethany Schultz Hurst’s poems appear or are forthcoming in journals such as 5am, Gettysburg Review, Rattle, Smartish Pace and RHINO. She teaches writing and literature at Idaho State University.