Of ancient
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Roy BryanOf ancient cave art... is read by he author using an Earthworks Ethos Mic

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Roy BryanOf ancient cave art... is read by he author using an Earthworks Ethos Mic

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Roy BryanOf ancient cave art... is read by he author using an Earthworks Ethos Mic

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Roy BryanOdf ancient cave art is read by he author using an Earthworks Ethos Mic
Of ancient cave paintings, Ötzi’s tattoos, and illustrated snails fighting knights
Perspectives from water level at the
Community pool, Golden Colorado

Since reality usually stays outside
of this building, this poem will begin
at odds with what will follow.
A determined Say’s Phoebe darts
on the other side of the pool’s large windows,
the salmon-orange belly feathers of this flycatcher
flashed when the sun is just right.
This is the third day she has searched
for enough purchase on the sheer cliff walls
of this modern facility
to build her nest.
She precariously holds on for a moment
and pumps her tail, possibly in frustration.

Perhaps, one can tell by my first vigilant observation
that my exercise routine is low keyed
and while backstroking indolently, thoughts
often surge out of control—
and because this simple starting point
does not suggest where the ending will land,
I reach farther into a pile of discarded fragments—
and for a moment, I watch with amazement
at the horses from the Magdalenian epoch
run with abandon
across the solid rock walls
deep in a French cave.
They gallop with surprising ease.
But this, as I tread water,
does not explain the wolf’s sharp fangs
snapping aggressively right next to me.
Those vivid canine colors flex
on a woman’s arms vigorously stroking freestyle
and running with the waves.
She must, I surmise, find a fiftieth lap.
It is undisguised that those predatory jaws
must have meant
to growl with bellicose confidence.
But there is a distinct odor
of chlorine surrounding me—
and with the shallow angle of the morning sun
this carnivorous effect is badly disfigured.
My eyes could hear nothing
in spite of an intense focus of resourceful fantasy—
creative powers were dissolved even faster
as she grasped the pool’s edge
to restlessly check her large waterproof watch—
hoping, I’m sure,
to discover, for the fifteenth litmus test
of the morning— way to uncover
her long waylaid seconds.
It is not impossible that will discover, like me,
that time has always found an uncomfortable way
Time has always had an uncomfortable way
of misplacing minutes, days, years,
and even centuries.

As I watched her attempted
return into the wilderness
another untethered
and extraneous thought broke loose
to watch a proud Ibex tilt its horns
and stare at the horses bolt seemingly forever—
I believe it noticed my instinctive thought
that Ötzi’s tattoo line art
had a meaning only this ice man
and his clan understood—
an artful significance that has faded over time.
Though real logic may not have woken up
with the rest of my body,
I am sure the simple cross tattooed on his knee
had not yet been stolen,
as some have suggested,
five thousand years ago
by the small ragtag assembly of Christians
retreating underground into their catacombs—
a gathering of fervid conspirators
who often found one of the visionary signs
they believed was unchained from time and earth.
I almost sympathize with the Roman centurions peering
with wary eyes into a very dark cave entrance.
It would have been hundreds of generations
after Ötzi’s death
before they uncomfortably stood there—
I can clearly hear one of them yell
that their torches had been left behind
when they broke camp in predawn confusion.
Their brutal raid would wait for another day

Ötzi’s strange gift of life
was understood, unquestionably, by his clan
in their own way.
The lines we call tattoos might have been symbolic art—
elegant controversies inked
so we could hang them in an avant-garde museum.
Or they may have just been an aesthetically pleasing way
to hide the acupuncture piercings
he needed to alleviate the pain
of day to day survival—
the aches, many times removed, that I feel,
at this very moment, very deep
in vulnerable knees, shoulders, and ankles.

This gratuitous and roundabout detour
of slipping in complaints
has almost made me lose my way.
But one can see traces of the trail
as the snow melts in the sun.
When Ötzi stuffed fresh grass
by instinctual habit,
into his deer hide shoes,
it added surprising warmth
as he fled up higher into the mountains.
And if I could have followed him,
the bear skin soles did not help
to outrun his pursuer
or, to his surprise, the cold flint arrowhead
that tore dramatically through his shoulder.
His blood, staining the snow in that ambush,
is a mystery, like most, that detectives have left unsolved.

Here I am, treading water again
with a irritated and frustrated detective
who is stymied for a moment,
and my mind slips one more time
into another world.
The snail I had thought was vanquished
returned to attack my heroic knight—
the often uninvited guest
who wanders aimlessly through my daydreams.
He does not sweat, feel the cold,
or understand the weight of his metal costume.
And for the life of me, I do not understand
why I let him hang around.
His tales of improbable conquests
of fair maidens are boring,
and he is obviously more comfortable
drinking ale in a dark tavern
admiring the paintings of warmblood chargers
pawing the morning air and waiting for a glorious joust
that never seems to start.
But the strong nightmares of a lance splintering
the marvelous griffin he paid to have painted on his —
and then, unerringly,
he sees it piercing his exposed shoulder
This vision always freezes him in fear.
The images of blood streaming on the horse’s mane
color his reluctance in a red haze.

And the monks, those cunning scribes,
certainly had fun at his expense.
Finding the fanciest parchment—
an expensive vellum selected with more care
than their treasured cellar wines,
and they drew decorations
all around the boring words
to help pass the day.
They, too, drank with abandon in the evenings.
But mornings brought a darkened humor
amplified by hangovers,
and the jokes carried messages
today’s scholars only partially understand.
Already, I see my knight slinking
from the malignant snail
and exiting hurriedly out the back door.
The chortles and guffawing followed him.

But still, I am unable to shake the irritating sleuth
lurking in my brain.
Rudely, he starts giving his opinion one more time—
Ötzi’s death must—or so he says confidently
in Columbo’s rumpled voice—
Ötzi’s death must be a crime of passion—
take a look, he says, look at the evidence,
the valuable copper axe and the flint dagger
that were left untouched
and lying on the ground.
This is wealth that could not be ignored.

Ötzi did not hide that he was a prosperous man
and maybe he rubbed that fact the wrong way
and insulted too many in his clan.
I can hear another inner Sherlock suggesting loudly
that the murderer could not expose his deed
in such a small tight knit community.
Then again, somehow Edgar Allen Poe
shows up poorly disguised
as as the detective
he pompously named C. Auguste Dupin.
He pronounces that this killer
was too weak,
or was dying out of our sight
from the serious wounds
received a few days earlier.
His first attempt obviously failed.

This may have been a tragedy
unfolding in a slow motion
that is hard to untangle.
I started the morning knowing the famous man
encased for centuries in ice
was the obvious victim.
But evidence suggests a far more complicated
and intimate human interaction.

Looking out again through the windows,
the sun has risen slightly
and the small and delicate flycatcher
has disappeared.
If this was her first nest, the many more to come,
I hope, have found a more hospitable location.
I certainly was looking forward to her yearly visit
and should not feel this wave of regret.

Fortunately, this morning’s exercise
is almost coming to an end.
Unfortunately, it is the moment, the stage
when I usually grit my teeth, knowing
that an unusual daily performance
will interrupt my elusive day dreamings,
reveries that will be shattered by an eccentric woman
who enters the pool by emphasizing
with an overacted Shakespearean flourish,
a discarded scene, and episode
thrown out with good reason,
a final act where the playwright
had her jump feet first—and as she jumps,
she bellows in an infant’s howl—
a cry magnified
by strong fifty year old lungs—
and by staging it in this pool, the wail is amplified
by glass windows, hard tiles,
and cold stoney block walls.

With this strange gesture, she seems to swim
back against the waters breaking loose
into this world, gracelessly struggling
and retreating back into the cave’s
incredibly dark entrance.
It does not matter how much
one anticipates this ritual.
Time stops for everyone.

If she is lucky, she will discover
a herd of determined deer
that have been swimming
for over seventeen thousand years—
they have stroked
with the same graceful abandon
on that sheltered and secluded wall
as when they first entered
the currents of that subterranean river.
Its crystal cold water flows
towards the world of timeless
and brilliant imagination
buried in our darkest inner journey.