Guest Poem by Jennie E. Owen

Jennie E. Owen has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies. She is both Pushcart and Forward Prize nominated. She teaches Creative Writing for The Open University and lives in Lancashire with her husband and three children. Jennie is currently working on a poetry PhD with MMU, focusing on traumascapes in the north-west of England. The featured poem is inspired by and with extracts from: How would you survive in a cave? by Tony Luckhurst, BBC World-Asia news.

Advice on Caving for Survival
or Marriage as an Extreme Sport

Caving is a polarising sport: underground/marriage
is one of those places you’re either happy or you’re not.

As the leader, you will have to take control. Mistakes
could rapidly escalate a situation into something more serious.
Don’t panic. Trying to escape through any loophole,
by any means, could put you both in peril.

Check what supplies you have; you may have to ration
food, water, light, conversation. The major danger
is hypothermia; so wring out your hands,
cling to one another to keep warm.

Water levels can rise rapidly in the event of a storm.
Seek the moral high ground from the start
there’s a number of ways to determine that point:
look for slung mud, apologies, wet slime on the walls.

Most caves/marriages breath naturally, hot air can get in
where people’s voices go unheard, although
it’s not uncommon for oxygen levels to get a little low.

It’s mentally exhausting being in the dark
for long periods of time, it’s easy to feel lost.
Remember the chasms in some caves/marriages are so vast
they could be explored by light aircraft.

It’s unlikely you’ll start out equipped for a long stay.
So take this advice: get the right information, the right kit,
go with someone who knows the way.