The Quickening

Chauvet Cave, ca. 25,000 B.P.
for Marja-Leena

Under the earth
the slaughtered bison dons a new flesh
made entirely of hands.

Not under the earth but in it–
the small intestines.

Not flesh but hide,
shift, disguise.

Not hands but glowing coals,
each with five flames:
that fire from behind the navel.

It begins to dance.


  1. Two things: I love the way this little poem revises itself as it goes along. And I feel acutely–whenever cave art is mentioned–what they (our forebears) knew and we don’t.


  2. Oh, a surprise! This is marvellous, Dave! I’m honoured that my passion for cave art is matched by these compelling words.


  3. Perhaps the second thing Teju says is the reason behind the first…

    You are in qarrtsiluni “Ekphrasis” mode, Dave, only you have involved a great chasm of time.


  4. Teju, marly – Good points.

    marja-leena – Glad you liked.


  5. “It begins to dance”…..I like an ending that is a beginning. And I also like buffalo flesh. About a half mile from here is a butcher shop that among other fleshly delights sells buffalo meat. Natural, organic and all that stuff. All this buffalo talk is making me hungry!


  6. Fred – You really do live in a meat-lover’s paradise, don’t you? (Though having just made venison burgers for dinner, I have to admit I don’t have it too bad, either.)

    michelle – Thanks! And thanks for stopping by.


  7. I enjoyed this poem, having come across the site by accident. When I saw this image in the film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” it reminded me of hearing anthropologist Raymond Dart speak of how important the color red was for humans in this time period–they had a real visual hunger for it, and travelled long and dug deep to obtain the mineral for the color.


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