Posted by: John Looker | 3 March, 2019

In the Caves at Nerja


As we enter the cave – the rocky floor
leading us down, and down again,
among the stalagmites and stalactites
– we are drawn to the deep past
where humankind
lived out its long, long infancy
by a now-forgotten shore.

The caverns are displayed by electric light.
So novel, so new.
For thousands of years
there was only the wavering glow
and the tricksy shadows
from a burning brand, and straining sight.

What might their lives have been like? Short
of course, with hyenas contending for the caves,
disease and the struggle for food:
pine nuts and snails, we learn, were big in their diet;
fish or meat when something was caught.

And yet:
and yet there was Art, or so we deduce.
Was it the women or was it the men
who splayed their hands against the cold rock wall,
blowing their pigments of black and red
across those templates of flesh and blood?
Who was it who painted these bison and deer,
these lifelike horses, these seals?
Who then stood back to admire the image as it set?

And although we look down, as it were, from above
we feel there must have been music and song.
Here in this chamber the stalactites ring
with discernible notes; some appear to be tuned –
that is scraped, or pared – for the ear.
Was there play? Was there laughter?
And, may we reasonably ask, how about love?


© John Looker 2015 


This comes from the final section of my book The Human Hive (Bennison Books, 2015 – through Amazon, currently at £2.99 and US$3.99). The book as a whole considers life through the prism of work and other activity; I have been posting a selection of the poems over the past year.



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