First Artists – Kelly DuMar

The greatest innovation in the history of humankind was neither the stone tool nor the steel sword, but  the invention of symbolic expression by the first artists.
~ Chip Walter

Veronique packed a picnic. Patrice drove us all to the cave above Pont-d’Arc to see the ancient panel of horses. Not the real cave, a replica faked to enchant us into witnessing: Chauvet.

Inside the dank chamber––Grotte Chauvet 2––torch-light illumines thirty-thousand-year-old horses a first artist charred a torch to draw, galloping over that shadowy wall. While the cave’s bears were out hunting food!

We exited, I sobbed.

Bears and bison, the snow leopard and lions––long gone, but the ancient stone arch over Ardèche River stands and I swam in the cold and we ate our cheese.

Ages earlier, in the first universe––childhood––I drew visions with crayons––created magnificence. In school, Mrs. Dole passed out mimeographs of blank fish, to color by the rules of the Color Wheel. I mixed mine wrong.

Your fish are the color of mud, she said.

I rose that night of Chauvet, from my guest bed, surrounded by walls of stone, one ancient window, no moon, in the commune of Fortunat-sur-Eyrieux.

In the wobbling, dark as an unlit cave, my floor heaved, waving the walls, my low ceiling tried to topple me. Help, I hissed––my husband lit our lamp, balanced me back into our bed––it bucked

on my waves of vertigo. In the tilting, unlit chamber, horses, hand drawn by a fistful of charcoal, galloped over my walls. Dawn, a taxi took us to the Paris train, another taxi to our plane––still, so giddy I could not stand up straight. I flew home over a fish filled sea–
–playing, rewinding, re-playing:

firelit fingers, a torch, a gallop, a smear.

Kelly DuMarKelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from Boston. She’s author of three poetry chapbooks, ‘girl in tree bark’ (Nixes Mate, 2019), ‘Tree of the Apple,’ (Two of Cups Press), and ‘All These Cures,’ (Lit House Press). Her poems, prose and photos are published in many literary journals. Kelly serves on the Board of the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) and produces the Bi-Monthly Open Mic Writer Series attended by women worldwide.