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Cave Painter

(Lascaux, 16,000 BCE)

We enter the cave at sunrise by torchlight,
Casting wild shadows as we descend
The sloping shaft to reach the hidden site,

A long cave painted past the trail’s first bend
With horses, deer, and great bulls in full stride,
Racing headlong toward an unseen end

In two crowded rows on either side.
We slow and pass between without a word,
And hold our torches high and wave them wide;

It is the vision of the running herd,
Painted in the past, over the course
Of the many seasons it recurred.

We are affected by its grace and force,
And want to linger for a longer view,
But our vision is of the red horse

So we continue onward, crouching through
A dwindling passage to emerge inside
A new cave sparsely painted with a few

Rough horse scenes.  We gather and decide
Which sections we will paint, then separate
To prepare our lamps and tools beside

Our scattered places.  I trim my lamp and grate
Colored pigment stones and mix the flakes
With the melted fat.  I concentrate

On these small tasks, and the deep silence makes
My thoughts and spirit stray and lose their way
Until a sudden rush of hoofbeats breaks

That silence, and in strange light, unlike day,
The red horse comes to where I sit, alone.
He looks straight through me, and his glance conveys

A fleeting scene of motion, breath, and bone.
And then he rears and gallops out of sight,
And as he vanishes I touch paint to stone.

Reverse Bird Watching

You can see my house from the highway
But you can’t get to it, since it sits
Behind a clump of trees, across a ditch.
So cars and trucks whiz past me all day long
And all I get from them is noise and stench–

Until I gathered up some brush and sticks
And piled them up in one of the back trees
Like a giant nest, and topped it with
A plastic eagle from the garden store–
Where nobody could say what it was for–

And people started stopping by the road,
And word soon spread, which has attracted more,
A steady stream of lookers and parked cars,
Taking pictures, even video.
I’m hoping for a tour bus any day.

And while they watch the eagle, I watch them
Through my second-hand binoculars,
Noting all the types and subspecies,
Admiring their plumage and footwork.
I only wish that I could hear their songs.