Love in the Caves

Love in the Caves

Chained until thirty three,
I was a jailbird of the cave.
Where madness and echoes
embraced the ruling darkness.
My dead eyes locked only
onto the lifeless wall ahead,
where deceiving shadows
soon became my false reality.

The seething fire behind me
knew nothing of friendship.
Nor I, until I scurried away
by posting words of protest
to each reviled, hated brick
of that shadowy ivory tower.
The one that separated me
from sun, moon and stars.

At first, blinded by the light,
I was stunned by existence
as I watched families smile,
going about their creations.
Children laughing liberally,
friends talking tête-à-tête.
Everything I once held real
was now forever departed.

Bright, whole-hearted days
where those maiden dawns
streamed down sunlit hours
upon my newly sighted eyes.
Eyes that wept remembrance
for my old abandoned cave.
Yet, no longer bathed in misery,
the light within began to shine.

Cultured, I returned to the cave
and found more family madness
that spat and hurled its bricks.
So I claimed my spiritual rights
as I shared tribal truths of love
and friendships found outside.
But still they believed in only
shadows dancing before them.

“There is life,” I said, “nay, love
outside this most dark cave.”
“No!” They shook their heads,
“We have not heard such things,
such things as love do not exist.
We cannot leave the welfare
of the wall, our family inside,
nor the darkness that speaks.”

“Wall and world” I enlighten,
“are two very different places.
Stand, look up, see the light!”
I place one foot in each world.
“Stand, hear the Goddess Isis
laughing in her indigo jeans.
She who waits outside the cave,
her headdress a royal throne.”

“It is she,” I say, “who speaks
of the task of the enlightened.
Their task is not only to ascend,
but also they must descend
and return, she counsels me.
To bring truth, light and wisdom,
even under prospect of death
and of their own destruction.”

Love arrives in the cave then,
as slowly the captive’s heads
turn away from the barricade,
away from the dead shadows.
They watch as I engrave my
poems willingly, liberally, over
the old childhood masterpiece.
And the wall becomes art again.

In restless, restricting chains
I watch a cave dweller stand.
She who yearns liberation,
she who yearns friendship.
I watch her read etched poems
as I walk up towards the light.
Free at last and at liberty to feast
alfresco at the banquet of love.


Inspired by ‘Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015
Image Credit: Nicolas Ilinski

20 thoughts on “Love in the Caves

  1. Such a creative poem, Deborah. I love the awakening, the new etchings on the wall, the new ability to love. I feel the self-portrait that it surely is mixed with the universality. For me, I’m ever facing a new level of my unconscious blindness to what matters.

    I love Plato’s cave and will never forget an enactment of it around 1975 done in my barn with Vic and friends creating a rather involved modern play of it. It was so damned funny. Up above, we had angels in white sheets with halos, the celestials of the upper worlds. And down below, Vic starred wearing his overalls, sparring with his wife (not played by me since I was organizing the party), watching television (with friends playing funny bits behind the pretend screen), pop culture and music jokes, and lots of blindness and confusion. Vic made fun of our teacher trying to teach us meditation, Greek philosophy, Jung and more. The lines were hysterical. Our guru and his wife howled with laughter. We all felt the ridiculousness of our own ego caves.

    Your poem takes me in the direction of the tragedy of the cave, my usual way of not finding one bit of comedy in the human situation. And from such bleakness, through your poetic magic, art, hope, love, and light are born. Thank you, Deborah. I had a great time with this and my memories. And maybe I’ll blog about it sometime. I wish I had a video, but we didn’t even take photos.

    1. Your reply, as always Elaine, arrives in the wondrous shape and form of beautiful prose. Thank you for sharing those cherished memories with me. Your past enactment of Plato’s Cave sounds as though it was a right old hoot! And a most comical one at that. Ha-ha! I especially love how the Great Above/Below were portrayed. Oh yes, I wish you had a video too, for it sounds as though today it would have been a YouTube sensation! What happy memories.

      Thank you so much for your beautiful, rich comment to my poem, truly appreciated. You read me well, and help me to understand this, my soul evolving journey that much more. Although this is a deeply personal poem I was so pleased to read that you felt yourself also connect to the universal, collective consciousness held within. I’m delighted that you had a great time with this and so grateful for your enriching response. Blessings always, Deborah.

  2. A beautifully written piece with such wonderful imagery that sheds more light onto this tale. I can really relate to the family as a cave – I had to return to mine twice after I had broken my chains from them before I finally helped them to see the light over their prejudices. It was too late for us to really have a relationship again but at least we had some time to heal wounds before my parents passed on. Isn’t it wonderful how so many of us can find our own interpretations within our lives of how we have lived this allegory – your poetic interpretation brings even more understanding Deborah so thank you.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful response to my ‘personal myth’ poem. I love to read new observations on this inspiring tale. It’s wonderful that your persistence paid off and that you were able to help your family ‘see the light’ and heal wounds. I agree, it’s a great story that many relate to. Warm greetings, Deborah.

  3. Well I’ll be darned … artistically profoundly exquisitely painted alfresco … I can see those images and the brave poetess moving in and out. What a wonderful analogy to Plato’s cave …

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your wonderful, kind-hearted comment on my poem, truly appreciated. It was pure joy to write this one, I absolutely love this myth! What journeying from the Great Below to the Great Above … and then back again!

  4. Woah! This one strikes a chord with me tonight Deborah!!
    I think families can be “caves” so god help the one who chooses to break away or refuses to play their stupid, ignorant games any more.
    Well, as we both know workplaces and websites can be “caves” too. Lots of places really.
    Your poem today is reminding me of a friend who had such a bad reaction from his family when he first started dating a mixed race girl that he ended up chucking her just to please them. Unbelievable!!! Thankfully they got back together once he’d (left the cave) come to his senses.. .but that meant having to leave his family as they refused to even “speak” to her. Nearly four years later they still don’t.
    I imagine it’s never easy coming out of the cave because you have to adjust to a new life which can be tough and painful, to put it mildly! Much like it is “coming out” as gay to a homophobic, hateful cave dwelling family!!! Christ, does the ignorance ever stop!!
    This story may be ancient but it’s still relevant.
    But seriously, getting out of the cave is one thing but having to go back inside must be even harder. So what do you do when you go back and they’re STILL fucking crazy?? Surely, my friend has to walk away and save himself and his wife from more misery?!!
    I’m sorry Deborah I’m ranting tonight and not referring to your poem but as you can see, it’s stirred me up. It’s like when you’re in that cave you’re pretending everything, even that the holocaust didn’t happen, or that terrorism isn’t out there or that your sick, racist parents are nice, normal people. And as for those poor sods left in the cave, blinded by their own folly, well…….
    Well, I didn’t expect that. I’m sorry I’ve ranted so much, it’s like your poem has really woken me up. I’ve read it before but today it’s hitting home with a few more home truths this time.
    I promise I’ll come back and read this again tomorrow and from another perspective.
    Hope that’s okay Deborah, apologies Claire.

    1. Oh Claire, I love the fact that my poem has ‘stirred’ you up! No need for apologies, we’re both poets and therefore deeply touched, even appreciative of those times when our words can speak so profoundly to each other. The situation your friend is in with his family is horrible and presently his inner compass is guiding him in another direction. Good!

      Yes, I agree families, websites and workplaces are ‘caves’ too. Many years ago I joined a writer’s forum on another website (not the other place!) and I had forgotten until now that a similar episode happened there when I refused to join in with some silly mind games. It all ended in disarray with somebody having a spectacular meltdown online. Hmm, I forgot all this when I joined ‘the other place.’ I guess sometimes we have to learn the lesson twice.

      ‘Coming out’ (however defined) is often difficult, for truth can be a terrifying experience to handle … especially if your whole family is going to turn against you in the process! I think in the early days, years, the longing to return to the safety of the cave (even an abusive one) and ‘the shock of the familiar’ is natural. If the craziness is still going on, well, I guess you have to turn yourself around and head back out for more healing light.

      I agree, Plato’s Cave story is as relevant today as it ever was, many myths are. Recently I’ve been studying the incredible myth of the Goddess Inanna, which you I think you’d enjoy. It’s all about the necessary ‘ascents’ and ‘descents’ we need to make in life. I hope the day finds you well and thank you so much for sharing your personal truths, wow, I’m deeply impressed dear poet. Blessings, Deborah.

      1. God damm it Deborah your words don’t speak, they shout into my heart!!!
        Thanks for understanding, apologies for cussing.
        I found the film on youtube, it’s a great way to learn about the cave story…..which makes your poem even more impressive. Well done!!!
        Last night I had to ask myself.. was my Animus taking over??
        I think not, I think I’ve been angry with my “racist” father for a long time, but Steve’s family was easier to get angry with.
        Arrrrgghh!! The truth, it gets us in the end, doesn’t it?!! ..

        1. Hi Claire, I’m so pleased you’ve been able to figure out your strong reaction to the poem, and make sense of it. Thank you once more for your generous reply. Yes, I believe the truth always does whether we like it or not. Warm greetings, Deborah.

  5. Hi Deborah. I absolutely love this one. It’s just so bloody insightful and isn’t it just the very bare bones of truth itself. I doff my hat to you fair poetess! Xxx

    1. Thank you so much Bathsheba for your beautiful comment and for the divine inspiration which led me, in the very first place, towards the deep riches, and inner treasure of Plato’s Cave. A truly magical moment! xxx

  6. Hi Deborah, this is outstanding! We journey home with you. I remember this tale from my English Literature class at college and how ignorant the prisoners were of the truth. They were believing of the shadows that danced before them. Stunning work, this is the best poem I’ve read on this allegory. I agree with picasso you’ve made it your own. Possibly, bodies are caves with trapped souls? Going back to reread. All the best, Liz.

    1. Hi Liz, I only discovered this allegory last year yet already it feels like it’s becoming my own personal myth. The theme of ascents and descents fits in perfectly too with the myth of the Goddess Inanna, which I’ve been studying for several weeks now. Such treasure in one’s life as I journey between the Great Below and the Great Above.

      Or in Hobbit speak … ‘there and back again!’ Ha-ha! I couldn’t resist, I’m a huge fan.

      Thank you so much for your inspiring and kind-hearted response to my poem. ‘Bodies are caves with trapped souls’ oh yes, indeed I’ve read this too in an essay I found this week. The womb in particular comes to mind, a pregnant darkness out of which new life is created. There’s a wonderful animated film of the myth on YouTube if you haven’t already seen it. Warm greetings, Deborah.

  7. Aaaah, yes. An inspiring poem, beautifully described, Deborah. A time of descent when shadows are more real than the light which casts them, when darkness rules and all hope is lost. Yet, sun, moon, stars, beauty and love are always there, waiting to be re-discovered when we open our eyes and ears to the images and poems that wait patiently to emerge from the caverns of our own souls.

    Jung said, “From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious…is the very source of the creative impulse.”

    How wise you were in your unknowing to turn inward to your instinct for creativity. That’s where you found healing. Working on my dreams, writing, and dabbling with poetry have done and continue to do the same for me.

    Blessings on your healing journey, and thank you for inviting others to join you.


    1. You read me so well Jeanie, thank you so much for your wonderful, reflective comment, truly appreciated. This week I have felt divinely inspired by yours and Elaine ‘descent’ articles and the theme of ‘lost’, all of which have been amazingly penned. ‘Caverns of our own souls’ … Oh my goddess, there’s some serious poetic swooning going on here!

      I love your Jung quote, it sits just right as I continue to unravel those creative healing powers. I feel that poetry in particular has been the lifeblood of my healing journey, and on more than one occasion my poems have quite literally saved my life. At the end of my poetry book I have written a ‘postscript’ which explains my journey of words further.

      If you’d like to read here’s the link:

      Love and blessings, Deborah

      1. Thanks for the link. I re-read your postscript and it does help fill in the gaps of your story. I look forward to more filling and integrating of gaps from you in future posts. Blessings, Jeanie

        1. Thanks for rereading Jeanie, you have such of wonderful way of saying things! Yes, I look forward to hopefully filling in and integrating more gaps along the way. Blessings, Deborah.

  8. This poem is distinctively yours Deborah! I remember reading it last year (at the other place) it still leaves me out of breath. You’ve taken Plato’s Cave story and made it your own. I doff my cap to you dear poet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you turn on all the lights in poetry heaven! You’re every poets’ poet and this poem, like your poetry will never fade. Shine on, stargirl.

    1. Picasso, it’s always wonderful to see you here. Thank you so much for your gift of shimmering words, see how they shine and sparkle! I was only introduced to Plato’s story last year yet it deeply resonated with me. I often call it my own ‘personal myth.’ Sometimes, as a wise friend once told me, we post our poems with a trembling hand, thank you for reassuring me and making it ok. Blessings, Deborah.

Comments are closed.