The Visions at Lascaux
Bison, limned in charcoal, die across the rocks.
Reindeer float in ochre on the walls.
Overhead, soot rings the opening;
the river froze, careening into cold.
Then, as now, the moon spun through the trees.
The people watched, with sorrow in their bones
and night stretched long. The pressure of a mouth,
the thumb-smudge tracked across the flute of bone
while ice and lightning crackled on the ridge
became the cry that pared the darkness down.
They must have tracked the fire as it fell
and heard the great oak snap as something struck—
daylight found the trunk still smoldering
threads of smoke escaping from the bark
as if the god inside still fought the god
that ate its heart and left its entrails black.
That night the shaman dreamed the dream of trees
fading from the cliff between the worlds.
They lit a flame to guide the shaman’s sleep
as they waited, in that low-roofed place, for spring.
“The Visions at Lascaux” is from Undertow (Persea Books, 2007), and first appeared in Natural Bridge, Spring 2006.