The Koppenbrüllerhöhle

(in the Austrian Salzkammergut)

Come, God-denier, and feel Him now . . .”

—Nikolaus Lenau, “Wandering in the Mountains”

Crude congeries of cave-spewed streams
(Tumbling, crashing, splashing, spraying
From deep in the Dachstein with mounting might),
You surge ever onward, ever conveying
Courage, fear, dread, delight.
All our worries, scoldings, schemes?
Deafened in your incessant roar;
Trifles drown before your door.
Yours, good friend, an ever-humbling
Arrogance-stifling roar and thunder,
Cure for our day’s cacophony,
Reminder there’s still terror and wonder,
Nurture in nature’s symphony,
Grim antidote to our petty grumbling
And death to the trivial tyranny
Of tedious technology!
Yet while you humble, you also exalt,
Soothe one with your surfeit of sound,
Send one into a stupid state
That is, in turn, so wise and profound
We lose all longing to preen and prate,
To squander our seconds in finding fault
With brother or sister or self. In its place
Hushed awe as your rapids roil and race!
Yours—gleaming, gushing—the word of God,
Which wakens as it mesmerizes,
Enlightening us with its wordless song,
A monotone drone that ever surprises,
Withering all our weakness, wrong.
Before you I bow and feebly nod:
And might I, with mere words, dare hope
To give some sense of your calm and scope?

William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee Wesleyan College, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including creative writing and literature, with a specialization in modern poetry in English. His poems have appeared in Acumen, Candelabrum, East River Review, The New Formalist, The Sonnet Scroll, The Galway Review, and Poetry Salzburg Review.