Notes of a Master

Bring the stone lamps, my brother —
the fat burns sweetly in them — and pull the branched
ladder high. The great bull’s image will run up
this way to top the cavern and I must
be there for him. With a sweep of my arm —
for I know how to thrust my body into the image —
I will draw with black ash the lines of the sublime face,
both horns rising.

After that, I’ll take the red and gold earths
prepared by our sisters and mates,
mixed by my own plan with fat and the gifts of our bodies,
blown by my own breath through this hollow bone,
to paint the greatest bull ever to gallop our walls,
for am I not the master image maker
of Lascaux, from this river valley and beyond?

My fathers and their fathers made the horses too,
their rough stiff manes, legs striped like shadows in the dusk,
standing together or bolting across the wall ready to be tamed.
But I won’t be here next winter to watch them move through
the firelit days and nights—soon
I’ll have thirty winters, time to pass on to another valley
as the animals do.

My sons and their sons and their sisters and mates
will bring the wild creatures to our walls —
the long haired ones with tusks of a man’s height,
the great cats following, the deer gathering.
For how else will we know our stories, know who we are
through the long cold years, the caves our only hope
in the storms, winds, and ice,
if we do not know the creatures and keep them here?

[Marydale Stewart is a retired college English teacher, librarian, and technical writer and has lived in Illinois, Kansas, and Colorado. Her chapbook Inheritance was published in 2008 by Puddin’head Press in Chicago. She has poems in After Hours, Ascent, Assisi, the Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Chocorua Review, The Foundling Review, Midwestern Gothic, Northwind, River Oak Review, and Willow Review, and forthcoming in an anthology A Quiet Shelter There, to be published by Hadley Rille Books.]

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