Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CAVE PAINTING, by HAYDEN CARRUTH

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CAVE PAINTING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Might he (cro-magnon) have drawn bison ...'
Last Line: Is this knowledge of loss
Subject(s): Extinct Animals; Poetry & Poets

"Might he [Cro-Magnon] have drawn bison
to induct a mystery
far more distant than the
[vanished] animal is

from us today? Where do the extinct
species go?" Yes. Precisely.
And don't we draw the same
so poignant imagery

on the walls of our skulls, on the
insides of our eyelids?
Where are the extinguishing species
going? Homonids

we call our fathers, watching them
watching themselves as they
draw and draw away from the animals,
hearing them say,

as we ourselves say, No, it's the
animals who are going,
the great recession that never
ceases, fading totality,

for Mammoth and Saber
Tooth are not "species"
but our own others, our somehow
better egos, like trees,

like savannahs of moving grass
that speak no names, since only
we speak their names, but not to
them, to ourselves, our own

fixed and impoverished being. They
are going away. See
this tetched and tabescent quadruped
in his cage. Decode

his sign. "Wild Mongolian
Ass, extinct in its native
habitat; seventy-one
known survivors today

were bred in captivity." See
into his unreflecting
eyes. The species go and go,
leaving behind these wrecked

pieces of junk. They vanish deep
into themselves, sink
into mystery, into ourselves, distant
beyond chance of thinking,

imaging, defining, where
essence was encoded
and knowing was not knowing and
existence only bred

existence and mystery was
the wondrous warmth of sunlight,
then when all things began the
journey to extinction.

We were with them. They went away.
And now every bell in
every tower in every village
could toll the tocsin

of our sorrow forever and
still not tell how across
all time our origin always
is this knowledge of loss.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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