Cave Paintings

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Cave Paintings
Cantabria

Who painted these pictures on the walls of night’s cave?
This grayish hand, fingers flexed, outlined in black soot,
that deer dancing, those bears, horses, bison, running?


Did they come from nowhere, plucked from nothing but
the artist’s memories of what he saw as the ice age faded
and heat and warmth returned to warm his world? Drawn
from life, without doubt. Unless these Neanderthals were
truly creating art from a literal vacuum with nothing new
invented since according to Picasso. And he should know.

Imagine them as sounds, as letters from distant relatives,
as colored vowels scored on the blocks of a child’s first
alphabet set. Sit and stare. Watch flames flitter over
sharp shapes. See life enter the drawings as flimsy
light flickers over the cave walls’ dips and bumps.

Once seen, never forgotten. Not just the paintings, but also
the clammy cave damp, the red hanky draped over a pocket torch
to imitate firelight, the drip of water, slow growth of limestone
deposits growing into stalagmite and stalactite. Such things
flit in and out of my mind like owls or bats, drop in on my sleep
wake me with predatory beaks and claws, calling for my skull’s shut
doors to open wide, to let them in, and to bring them back to life.

Comment: The picture comes from an ash-tray my parents bought at the Cuevas de Altamira, in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria, Santander as it was known then) in 1963. We visited many cave sites in Cantabria including Puente Viesgo, where we saw the sooty hands. Back then, the caves had only just been opened. At Altamira, a young lady came to greet us. We asked her if we might view the caves and she whistled loudly. Her husband came down from the fields where he was working. He took a large iron key from his pocket, opened a huge door set in the rock, and in we went. One light bulb illumined the inner chamber. Only a small segment had been dug out. We reclined on a rocky bank. He doused the electric light, took a torch from his pocket, and covered it with a red pocket handkerchief. He moved this back and forth to imitate firelight and immediately the whole wall came to life and the animals moved in the flickering light. Pure magic. Unforgettable. We were the only people there. Four of us. A few years later, you had to book an appointment and a place. Within six years, the caves were closed as the heat of human bodies raised the cave temperatures and caused the paintings to deteriorate. I was so fortunate, so privileged, to see those paintings in what was almost their pristine state. In 1991, I visited the facsimile of the caves built in Madrid. I paid my money, went in, sat down, and came out crying for all those things we had lost, for all that beauty that had been denied.

Dog Fox

Dog Fox

Late evening, low light, fox in the distance, photo through windows, two crows bombing him, fox on the run. A lovely sequence. Before the fox came, a hawk circled the lawn. Then came the crows. Then I saw the fox. Sorry about the quality of the photo: best I could do under the circumstances.

Just to say that this is a fine ending to a wonderful day. My fellow artists (Anne, Caitlin, Chantal, and Dan) are fantastic. Evening meal in he Garden Cafe was superb, as usual. Individual tables, suitably spaced. I had a lovely lunch with Geoff and Jeff. Many thanks for the welcome welcome you have all given me.

After the evening meal, we did a live reading on the porch, from One Small Corner and Tales from Tara. That was so much fun. To cap the day, I called my beloved and she told me that all was well and that Stars at Elbow and Foot (Selected Poems, 1979-2020) had arrived safely in Idlewood. Oh frabjous day, calloo callay, he chortled in his glee.

GBH on the TCH

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GBH on the TCH

She climbs up from the river
where she’s been drinking.
She ripples tawny, red, and orange
across the TCH.

 As quick as a fox, they say:
black socks, brush winter-thick
held high and proud,
as quick as a shadow
melting into dark woods
on the highway’s far side.

Her cub follows close behind,
but he’s not quite as quick.
A passing car tries to swerve
only to grind him into the gravel.

Sudden, that fox-stink,
still clinging to my nostrils
 like a slow-motion death,
dreamed at night,
frame by bitter frame,
until a life-time of silence
seals the lips of parted lovers.

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Rainbow Return

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Rainbow Return

I opened the car door
and he ran across the parking lot
and jumped into the back seat.

“Where have you been?” I asked.
He thumped his great tail, sniffed,
and licked my hand.

As we drove home, he thrust his head
between the seats and placed his paw upon my shoulder.
Then he licked my ear and the side of my face.

I pulled into the garage and let him out of the car.
He raced to the end of the drive, surveyed the neighborhood,
and drilled an invisible pee into the snow.

I whistled, and he ran back to the door,
whimpering and scratching, impatient.
I held the door open and he bounded in.
“You’re back home now,” I told him.

He ran to the cat’s bowl and lapped some water,
scoffed her kibble, and lay down in his usual place.
At night, he lies beside me in bed,
a fluffy spoon carved into my body’s curve.

In the morning, he walks through the kitchen
and doesn’t make a sound.
The cat senses he’s there and bristles and hisses
at rainbow motes dancing in the sun.

He’s sitting beside me now,
head on my knee, as I type these words,
one-handed, because I’m scratching him
in his favorite spot just behind his ear.

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Oh dear, dear bear!

Oh dear, dear bear.

Basil decided he liked beer, especially in small tins. The news says that many teddy bears have become addicted to alcohol in the course of the pandemic. What the Strolling Roans call Teddy’s little helper, or Basil’s in this case. I do hope he’s all right.

Basil swears he likes cats. “Look,” he says. “She’s reaching out to me.” I am worried that she’s coming to give him a nasty scratch. Am I worried? Of course I am. I thought Basil was a tee-tee-tee-total bear. I think he’s trying to break in.

Suddenly, I am not so sure. I think he has been talking, in secret, with one of my friends, whose name we will not mention. Couldn’t be him. How could he talk when … (comment removed by MI6, or equivalent).

Nochebuena

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Poinsettia is called nochebuena in Oaxaca.
It also means ‘Christmas Eve’ in Spanish.

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Nochebuena

Nochebuena / Christmas Eve:
last year, a star fell down the chimney
and landed on the poinsettia.
The cat and the dog stood up to deliver
new versions of their Christmas vision.
Birch bark: ghosts on the snow bank turned
white in the moonlight as they danced,
so slender and so bright.

This year an obsidian knife
hacks through my mind
slicing it into two uneven pieces.
Snowflakes invade its split personality.
Thin ice spreads across glacial fires.
Incarcerated birds sing deep in my rib cage.
A child’s world: with its lost toys lies
buried beneath fresh snow.

Tears freeze in my eyes,
drip from my eyelashes,
and fall to the earth as stars.
Soon I will be an enormous sunflower,
trapped in this wet clay rag of a body.

If I sit here in silence
will the world, like a garden
growing wild, go on without me?
The flowers in my yard close
their mouths and refuse to answer.

Babs

Babs

It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

Babs held the cat in her arms. The vet slipped the needle into the shunt he had inserted into the animal’s paw and the tiny wind of life gusted from the cat’s fragile body. The struggle ceased. The cat’s head settled and her tongue protruded, just a little, in that beloved and well-known gesture. It was all over.

Babs had found that lump, hard, but smaller than a pea, on New Year’s Day. The next day, she carried the cat to the vet where they took blood samples and ran tests. The vet’s assistant called later that afternoon. A lymphoma, she said, small but deadly. Steroids might help. They would give the cat a 40% chance at a life that would get more difficult, in spite of any known treatment. The alternative was to bring her back in and put her down now, that very afternoon. Babs looked at the cat: highlights strayed through her fur and her bright eyes sparkled like sunshine on a lake.

Throughout January the steroids went in and the cat glistened and grew fat. At first, Babs saw no sign of the lump but by Robbie Burn’s Day it was back. Babs started to count the days: January 31, February 2. The lump grew larger.

Three years before, on Valentine’s day, Babs had salvaged the cat from the SPCA where she languished, abandoned in a cage. The cat was a stray, half feral, taken in from the streets and subject to who knows what sort of treatment and feeding in its infancy. Babs wondered if it was in those days of neglect that the cancerous seed took root? Or did those seeds come later, when the cat wandered the garden and fed off the wild life, mice and voles, and drank from the streams that flowed through the killing fields with their fertilizers, their weed killers, their nutrients, and their poisons?

“What are we doing to ourselves,” Babs wondered as she sat at the kitchen table and sipped a cup of tea. “Was my cat the canary in my coalmine, doomed to warn me of what’s to come? Will my own system be invaded then poisoned with cancerous growths? Will I be subject to that stumbling, downward road that leads in the end to an inevitable death?”

She lay awake that night alone in the bed wondering in what ways cancer might ravage her body. How long would chemotherapy keep her alive? Who would be there for her, who would hold and comfort her, who would slip that releasing needle into her veins when her time came?

Babs ran her fingers over her body as she imagined herself sliding day by day down that slippery slope that leads to the grave. Then she caught her breath, her heart raced, and her blood turned to ice as her fingers tripped against the colony of killers: three small hard lumps that nested in her soft breast.

Teddies or Cats?

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Five reasons why a Teddy Bear is much better for you than a Kitty Cat.
I know, I know: cat lovers will go wild. They think cats are such lovely cuddly things. And they believe strongly that nobody can resist a warm, loving, darling, purring bundle of fur. Well, I can resist cats. And I can give you five good, sound, solid, 25 carat reasons why Teddy Bears beat Kitty Cats any day of the week.

One
Teddy Bears do not need to be fed on a regular basis. In fact, one piece of kibble will last a Teddy Bear for a very, very long time. And you can’t say the same for your cat. So less expense, no need to feed, don’t have to put that fresh water down every day, no constant fawning attention when hungry or just plain greedy, don’t have to worry about treading on the cat’s tail … In fact, a Teddy Bear wins out every time.

Two
“Don’t mention cleaning out the kitty litter.  Promise?”
“I promise. I won’t mention it.”
“Word of honor?”
“Word of honor. Fresh Walnut and all that.”
“You just mentioned it.”
“Mentioned what?”
“The kitty litter.”
“I didn’t.”
“You did: you said ‘Fresh walnut.’”
“So?”
“So that’s what keeps the kitty litter from smelling.”
“Does it smell much?”
“Quite a bit. I hate cleaning it out.”
“Why?”
“It’s so smelly, filthy, grainy, lumpy, stinking …”
“So, why do you do it, then? What you need is a nice, clean, environmentally friendly Teddy Bear. There’s no cleaning up after a Teddy Bear. Who’s ever heard of Teddy Bear Litter?”
“You said you wouldn’t mention it.”
“Mention what?”
“Kitty litter.”
“I didn’t, you did.”

Three
Teddy Bears don’t have off-spring. You don’t need to neuter them, and they don’t need taking to the vet. Nor did they sit and wait in family groups for their photos to be taken. What we have below is a fake photo placed there by the unscrupulous enemy for their own pro-cat propaganda purposes.

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Four
Teddy Bears are very obedient. If you tell a Teddy Bear to “sit” or to “stay”. He does so. Immediately. And he stays where you put him. There’s no clash of wills and egos, no conflict at all. Teddy Bears are easily trained and very obedient. Also, they don’t want to go out in the garden and wander beneath the bushes to shriek and whine when the moon is full. Now, if you have cats and you want them to sit and stay still, you must give them something to watch or to play with. Chipmunks and garden birds aren’t cheap, you know, and they are less trainable than cats. How long do you think it takes to train a chipmunk to just sit there quietly to entertain your cat? Especially when it’s being hissed at and the cat is bouncing the window with anguish? Also, Teddy Bears don’t climb on furniture, nor do they break ornaments, nor sink their claws into your hair as you pass beneath them, nor do they drop on you, unexpectedly, from great heights.

Five
Five and finally, when there’s a moth, a fly, or a mosquito on the ceiling at night, you can’t train your kitty cat to fly into the air and snatch it off the ceiling. But as for Teddy: grab him by one leg, preferably the back one; give him his commands “Ready, Teddy, Go!” and hurl him skywards. With a little practice, he’ll nail that nocturnal buzzing monster every time.

No: all things considered — and I promise I won’t mention, you know what, that little box the cat sits in — there’s nothing better than a Teddy Bear. Wise, silent, friendly, cuddly, obedient, friendly (did I say that?), needs no training, always there when needed, waits patiently for you when you’re away, never stalks off with tail in air, never gets out and hides in the garden where you can’t find him, adorable, cuddly (did I say that already?) … Give me a Teddy Bear anytime.

Click this link for original post and more photos:
https://rogermoorepoet.com/2016/05/01/teddy-bears-and-kitty-cats/.

Croaking Angels

He knows the frogs are in there. He doesn’t need to hear them sing. But he loves to make them croak.

Croaking Angels

Their tunes are one note symphonies,
croaks of joy that move
their fellow frogs to ecstasy,
exhorting them to share
the splendors of ditch life,
in a springtime bonding
that will loft them skywards.

There’s an ancient magic
in this calling: water
and laughter, sunlight, warmth,
and all those joyous things
that fill the newborn spring.

Moonlight swings its cheerful love lamp.
New leaves and buds are also known to sing.

Comment: This always makes me think of the croaking chorus from Aristophanes. I do hope all those wonderful ancient plays, songs, myths, and legends are not forgotten in our croaking frog chorus of modern jingoistic advertisements and propaganda. Ah well, what’s a source for the proper goose is probably a source for the proper gander. Who knows nowadays? What we do know is that spring is just around the corner. Warmth and the absence of snow will help change our lives. And yes, that croaking chorus will be back.

The Twain

Comment 1: It’s one of those pandemic days when the steam stays in the kettle, the heart rattles, the ribs, and nothing happens. This is the hopeful grey squirrel who sits outside the kitchen window and tries to persuade us to come out and feed him. Look at him: one eye on us and the other on the world around him.

I think he’s looking for his twin, or maybe his twain. But what if the twain never meet? Click on the link below, a real Golden Oldie, and you’ll see what happens when the twain really do meet. As they sometimes do.

https://rogermoorepoet.com/2016/04/

Meanwhile, Teddy has a message for you: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Now, now: I don’t want to hear anyone thinking: ‘get stoned you silly teddy bear’. That’s not nice. Remember: “let him who is without guilt” etcetera

Comment 2: When you click on the link, if you click on the link, remember: that was probably my first ever post. Oh I was a novice once upon a time, but never in a nunnery. And I still don’t like taking orders. That’s probably why I never became a bar tender or a waiter. Hey: wait a minute now. I think this pandemic lockdown is getting to you. You are as mad as a hatter or as confined as a teddy bear in a glass house. Oy! Whose is that voice talking to me on my own blog? It’s the other half of your split personality. Oh dear: I guess we are all getting to know that strange, locked up feeling.