Entering the House of Awe
La Grotte Ornée de Pech Merle
where 25,000 years ago, someone used moss, coloured ochre,
sticks of charcoal, and a herd of spotted horses appeared,
galloping across the plains of a cave wall. Working in the flicker
of rush light, the artist outlined in black, filled in with brown or red.
Always in motion, these ponies thunder across the rock face, fresh
as if they were drawn yesterday. Was the painter surprised
by what emerged? Would she be amazed to know that they’re
still here, cantering in the dark? She ground red ochre
to a fine powder with mortar and pestle, then placed her hand
on the cold stone, picked up a hollow bone, and blew. What
remains is a negative, the opposite of the plaster casts our children
brought home from nursery school. The horses are dappled
by stenciled dots and finger prints dipped in colour.
I think I can hear them snort, feel their grassy breath,
and then I realize it’s the touch of your hand brushing mine,
or someone blowing pigment in the dark.
This poem has previously appeared in Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Poetry Press, 2019).
The Ekphrastic Review
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