"Once More Valuable Than Gold"
—Guidebook to the Wieliczka Royal Salt Mine

         Were we in Grand Rapids,
   at the Amway
Plaza, say, the seventh or eighth person
         would likely have waited

         for another car,
   preferring not to unround his bubble
of self against the else
         of another

         someone, or flatten it by walnut trim
   and a carpet-covered
office panel.
         But here in Wieliczka, ascending from

         the Chapel of the Bless
   -ed Kinga, where
twenty-two is too few for the same space
         (approximately), we

         must decide where
   we want our hands to go—or stay—during
the slow, blind ascent of
         the "original

         mine lift," which only once in its thirty
   electric years failed
to deliver
         thankful, precious humanity into

         the pregnant wind of Polish
   cabbage fields.
(This gap-planked cargo pen recalls the boxcar
         photos we'd seen at

   fingers seeking unfetid air like cow
tongues . . .) Not to worry. We're
         sure to be raised

         through bores of "ordinary working shaft,"
   from the briny, thick haze
of chambers where
         even the chandeliers are carved from salt,

         a seasoning thought so
   celestial that
Copernicus was reputed to have
         descended to it in

   witnessing the faint blue Hickering of
a salt sprite, a blink of
         light found no where

         else in the universe. Some places are
   in fact like no other.
Here perspective
         is deceptive: The Last Supper measures

         little more than twenty
yet the bas-relief sculpted by Wyrobek
         in 1935

         seems deeper, more
   three-dimensional, and more lifelike than
the familiar painting
         it's modeled from.

         Finally, our rising—breathless, sweaty—
   counters all we've come to
know of space, earth,
         and gravity. We will leave behind in

         the souvenir shop
the products of wealthy geologies,
         and take instead to the

         brilliant surface
   our body's thin bag of minerals, where
we too may glimmer
         in golden fall like

fabulous crystals first entering air.