(On caves near Cantabria, Spain)
Burnt herds clung galloped against
the tawny rock: shade of copper, wine,
sun-roasted skins; creased tints of old
smoke veined deep, red in ruddy stone.
See the makers’ powdered hands: blown
prints who did crush, dry, flay, & grind,
till a wreck of young years sat dust upon
the caving floor, mark of tool & task.
Shell, horn, tooth. Prize white-nook tibia.
Cooked in flames, cracked mouth-open;
mixed & rolled by measured palm – the art
of it, as could be true called nothing else.
In carmine & dung umber, charcoal, salt
from blue glass coast – fats churned to oil,
pigment, hue & tone, modern phrase now
violent, spread color against a storied wall.
Precise, genteel, urbane; words offered by
Spaniard, Frenchman, hosts of culture who
front rushing doubt, blunt calls of forgery:
no half-man, no slope-nosed cro-magnon
could make such a thing: the excellence
of the scarlet pack is far too fine. Bison,
boar, wild horse. Stroke of figure, strutted
hoof – yet it is here, in heated blur, in authors’
reddened fingers whose sounds of charging
life: more recollection, than dream.