Ice Age ~ Katharine Coles



The aurochs spins in firelight suspended
On the tent.  Appears to run, remarkable

 Shadows, foolery already
Leaping.  Carved from bone: a map,

A tool for scraping snow, river, a blizzard,
A fish.  What is a wonder of nature?  A leaf,

A weapon, a lion-man 40,000 years ago
Carved from the bone of a mammoth.  Still the arrival

And departure of birds.  Two reindeer
(16,000 years, 20,000) swimming or a male

Nosing under a female’s tail, like me riveted
In time.  The wooly rhino is an extinct species.  Still

Dressed for cold though outside
Trees are in bud, gauzed with green.  Already, see,

Makers swoon, in thrall to themselves
Making.   When they stand up on their back legs

Bears resemble humans.  This man’s head
Turns like a doll’s. This one was in pain, riven

By time.  River pebbles minimally altered to accentuate
Their female features. Mouth open, is she

Calling or screaming?  Are these real women
Or imaginary beings?  Their brains, the gloss tells us,

Were like ours.  An argument made
Or had.  Is the brain the mind?  I

Forget.  In wild speculation, I always say
It slipped my mind.  I mean, reality.



The British Museum, Art of the Ice Age, April 2013.  Italicized lines from the exhibit commentary.