Bethany Schultz Hurst: "Ice Cave: Shoshone, Idaho"


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.