The Poet Enters The Architect’s Catacombs
Somewhere beneath the former Rue d’Enfer, Paris

at a depth of 12 to 13 fathoms,[1] it’s core-quiet down here

pieces of stone lifted by hand now lift the earth up from
within herself, held with mortar of bones

The memory of excavations is almost fragrant      The ceiling
above me once collapsed into a tumble
of voussoirs—no single keystone to speak of—& this

without making anyone the least bit nervous, though I move
away fast      Bodies know

much more must and can be done to remedy all the damages here
Everywhere      Did you know,

in the void of the quarry, smoke can linger for hours

One can suspend the scent of perfume, too      This
distracts me from the fear of being crushed
alive      Or crushed to death

It had to be resolved, this descent      One stair at a time
      One corridor after another & a final glimpse
up a shaft to see the pinhole light of sky      shining
through a manhole cover      too far above


[1] Italicized text from Mémoire sur les Travaux Ordonn. Imprimeur-Librarie, Charles-Axel Guillaumot. Collège d’Harcourt, Rue de la Harpe. XIII. Paris, 1804. Translation of phrases by Jody Gladding.





Anna Elkins is a traveling poet and painter. She earned a BA in English and art and an MFA and Fulbright Fellowship in poetry. She has written, painted, and taught on six continents, publishing her writing and exhibiting her art along the way. She has illustrated several books and authored four of her own, including the poetry chapbook The Space Between. She helps lead Deep Travel Workshops and also teaches classes in the crossroads of art + word + spirit, both near her home in Oregon and far, far away. For additional information, visit

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