Darkness fills the cave until they bring
firelight so as to charm the sacred place.
Women and teens climb a steep hill.
It’s so cold one of them stamps her feet.
Then to kneel on human knees,
evolved ill-formed, so many moving parts.
What tools for art to start, in pain and semi-light,
with paintbrushes fashioned from animal hair
and reeds. Baskets for Earth’s palette.
In cave after cave, we find them,
the negative handprints made
by blowing pigment around hands
placed on walls. A billion nerves in
each absence, artists’ signatures borrowed
from beyond time. They cannot know this
will be preserved and the ochre that seems
to gallop through bison and stag and horse
leaping off the cave’s muscular contours.