Grotte de Niaux

Barth Landor

We stepped into a void
where nothing grows but cold:
a cave bereft even of bones.
We tracked footsteps by the hundred
into dark as deep as the day
before God created light,
where all at once, in that withering-place
for every sense, we came upon your monuments.

A bison bristled on a wall,
voluptuous mass of muscle
ending in a tender face.
A startled beast looked back –
at an enemy? At you, or at me?
In this pit of mystery, each creature's lines
were unmistakable signs
of your ache to make art
in an ice age fourteen thousand years ago.

Although it's I who am alive just now,
in our advanced and melting time
when illumination seems only to beam
by satellite, always a click away,
it's you who knew what we no longer know:
that it waits within
across a chasm of dark,
past any echo of surface-sound,
in the breath-of-life's last cul-de-sac,
where suddenly a hart takes shape,
serenely indifferent to whether
or not it is ever found.


About the Author

Barth Landor's novel A Week in Winter (The Permanent Press, 2004) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and his poem 'Tree' was listed as a finalist in last year's Montreal International Poetry Prize.