Putting aside the fact that they are old,
which is, admittedly,
like putting aside the divinity of a god
or the black of a crow,
we understand the paintings in the Chauvet Cave
because we have been children,
because we lay awake in summer,
possessed by what we wanted and what we owned.
‘We’ll go horse riding on the beach,’
my father promised,
and I never slept, hearing the relentless
gravel pulsing of the sea,
seeing my pinto, as though he were there
— and me, straight-backed,
moving the spirited thing
with the pressure of my heel.
If I could, I also would have
ground stones to powder,
mixed fat and spit,
sketched the thin-legged horses,
their necks impossibly arched,
posed static, because they were mine.
And then, in bed,
under whatever rushes hid and warmed us,
watched the obsessive fire
trace their red and ochre lines.
But the Ensenada pony,
when I tried to ride him,
— tired, malnourished —
until I pulled him reluctant
to the edge of the water
uncontent and untransformed /
the dark shapes of trawlers inching
like beetles on the horizon:
paintable ships, but knowing now
how only shipwrecked sailors paint,
how only starving hunters paint.
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