THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

 

Only one.

Painted in yellow ochre,

her black eyes shine with calcite.

Her teats are distended with milk, 

her curved tail suggests motion.

You wouldn’t notice her.

Indeed, she was not noticed 

for years since she is small,

overshadowed by the horses,

the lions and bulls;

since she was not officially domestic

for another twenty thousand years.

Beneath her, in the dust,

a fragment of mammoth bone.

Painted above her head, 

a single handprint,

again in the yellow.

A small hand, carefully placed,

poised as if to caress.

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STREET DANCE–and the process

I wrote this last year. The finished poem, if a poem is ever “finished” is the first one. It’s followed by the rough draft and various revisions.

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

There are bears among the stones.

Everyone knows how to dance—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, 

old people and their little dogs,

the children in their wild cavort.

 

 

how I got there:

 

STREET DANCE

At sunset, young animals 

make ephemeral alliances 

and run and run.

Human children here are doing that now

while adults dance, or watch,

or play in the band.

Everyone knows how to dance,

even the people sitting in the folding chairs

chatting, eating ice cream.

Mostly it works, 

what we do. Even though

we’re too far away.

We think we’re here, 

but our brains—

those soft machines—

still live in caves of bones.

A tiger behind every tree.

We need mates, enough space

to gather and hunt and defend.

Our children.

Bands of brothers. 

A powerful sisterhood.

Sharp memory of every fear.

The gods need room 

to speak to us—

they leave spaces in our skulls.

If the gods are gone

we fill the holes ourselves.

What will become of us—

these children in their wild cavort,

the woman twirling in her short skirt

and her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, the old people

in their baseball hats, sitting

on the benches in front of the post office,

holding their little dogs 

or resting their hands on their canes.

July 17, 2017

 

STREET DANCE

Consider: our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. We need 

mates, children, enough space to gather and hunt. 

There are bears among the stones, panthers in the trees.

We remember every fear. The gods 

need room to speak to us.

If the gods are gone we fill the holes ourselves.

 

At sunset, young animals make ephemeral alliances 

and run and run. Human children 

are running together now while adults

dance, or watch, or play in the band.

Everyone knows how to dance,

even the people in the folding chairs

eating ice cream. Eating ice cream

is another way of dancing.

 

What will become of us—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, the old people on the benches 

in front of the post office, holding their little dogs 

or resting their hands on their canes.

Our children in their wild cavort.

August 28, 2017

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

There are bears among the stones.

Human children in their tribes

hunt across the green.

We all know how to dance—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, 

old people holding little dogs 

or resting their hands on canes.

Young primates in their wild cavort.

undated  but with the comment: (Fairly soon, there will be no poem left.)

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

 

STREET DANCE

We are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

September 14

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK

AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

All you want to do

is touch.  It used to be easy,

while winnowing grain or stalking beasts.

Your bodies remember 

the smell of sweat in the longhouse,

gossip by the well, 

embraces under the trees.

   

Once you spoke while hanging wash

or mending nets or minding babies

or scything hay or boiling sap

or making shoes or spinning thread

or pounding nails or stitching quilts.

Now

you are scattered like chaff,

dispersed as hunted game,

 

and so are we.    

 

Oh, children, do not complain at us!

We are as exiled as you.

Like you we want to find our friends

and digging is so hard.

Disembodied

as you, we post lines 

and flickers to our tornaway tribes.  

Now the ether carries in bits

our sketchy sentences, our loneliness,

tears that this strange communication

without skin or breath can maybe begin to mend.

 

I wrote this years ago, when I first joined facebook. Now that I’ve deleted my account, I find  it intriguing that this was the original intent.

March Prompt #10: The Chilean Skeleton

THE CHILEAN SKELETON

March Prompt #10

There was nothing to do but baptize it—

God forgive me—that tiny dead thing.

It was still warm, still damp with its mother’s

blood. They were afraid to wash it,

she said, afraid the water would kill it

before they could get it here, to save

its soul. The least they could do, they said.

She kept crossing herself, the grandmother

who brought it to the church. She kept

crying, afraid the girl had sinned, afraid

she herself had sinned. I did what I could.

I blessed her. I lighted candles for the girl.

I washed the little thing in clean water,

sealed it with the cross, wrapped it

in a linen cloth. I offered to bury it,

but the grandmother said they’d see to that.

It’s what women do, she said.

OLD GODS

OLD GODS

Eventually everyone abandons

old gods. The Romans did, the Greeks, the Goths.

Poor Jupiter, sad Gaut— swallowed like Metis,

or like Persephone, exiled underground.

Great Pan is dead. There is nothing new under

Helios, or Ra, or any ball

of burning gas. Old gods, all gods, are

nothing but constructions of finitude.

What is, defies each attempt. Even

the atheists fail, their ridicule grasping

straw. But still, transcending all the light

of each imagined form, outlying limits

of sense, that surface of last scattering—

there is nothing but a kindlier dark.

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME

WHAT I DID AFTER YOU LEFT HOME

Went to New Orleans,

walked alone in the early morning.

They were opening windows,

washing down the streets.

Are you ready, M’am?

An old man stood on the cobblestones,

beaming in the steaming light.

He held reins in one crinkled hand,

extended the other to me.

His brown horse shook its head, bells rang.

Ready?  For what?

 

Are you ready for a buggy ride?

I had not planned to act like a tourist,

but how could I do otherwise

in this unexpected land, this place I’ve never seen?

The people sitting above the tall red wheels

were talking and laughing together

like people in a painting, or a play.

The driver cocked his head, waiting for my answer.

I asked the cost.

There was no reason to refuse.

 

I placed my damp white hand in his,

my hand with the split lifeline,

the single crack foretelling a single child.

Twenty years ago a sibyl read my palm:

You’ll live long, but two lives, different.

You’re a musician.  And try not to be so stingy.

Yes of course I’m ready, I told him.

Boost me up.

 

You, I’m afraid, would have been

disdainful, cool.  You would not

have approved of me,

sweating in my purple dress,

gawking, singing along,

leaning out behind the horse’s bobbing feathered head

above the spinning wheels

in that impressionistic light.

 

I felt a city dawn that day,

saw men in stiletto heels and black stockings 

prancing down the shining sidewalks,

artists reaching for long moist shadows,

women like statues, painted gold.

The city smelled like fresh coffee,

sour beer, things frying in lard.

On every bright wet corner

were little children, dancing.

 

 

I wrote this a long time ago, in response to the Empty Nest. It ended up being a performance piece.

 

March 24–November 16, 1999;  Jan. 30–April 20, 2001

Quatrain Chapbook:   Sing in me, Muse, Feb. 2005