THE FIRST PAINTING
By Tom Holmes
I had no urge except to sleep
with her in the cave, but I felt
sympathy. I cared. I sensed
intelligence in a crevice. I saw
life. I saw a bison’s back
in a crack. I saw
the whole world, the whole sky
all of night. The night
was alive, here, underground
with the bisons, the horses, and rhinos
before me, before my eyes — I saw
a backdrop with all the beasts.
I saw blood on my finger.
The arc of a bison’s back
appeared with one stroke.
The second urge arrived.
(Today’s poem originally appeared in the Stone Highway Review, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)
Tom Holmes is the editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics. He is also author of Poems for an Empty Church (Palettes & Quills Press, 2011) which was recently nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, The Oldest Stone in the World (Amsterdam Press, 2011), Henri, Sophie, & the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex (BlazeVOX Books, 2009), Pre-Dew Poems (FootHills Publishing, 2008), Negative Time (Pudding House, 2007), After Malagueña (FootHills Publishing, 2005), and Poetry Assignments: The Book (Sage Hill Press, forthcoming). He has thrice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared a number of times on Verse Daily and has also appeared in Blue Earth Review, Chiron Review, Crab Creek Review, The Delmarva Review, The G. W. Review, Mississippi Review, Mid-American Review, New Delta Review, New Zoo Poetry Review, Orange Coast Review, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, San Pedro River Review, Santa Clara Review, South Carolina Review, Sugar House Review, Swarthmore Review, and many other journals that don’t have “Review” in their name. His current prose writing efforts about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break.
Editor’s Note: Today’s poem contemplates what it is to be human, to have human urges and desires, and how original those desires are. How instinctual, how elementary, is love, sex, art, the hunt and the kill? How can poetry bring us back to that other version of ourselves that exists in an ancient cave, and what elements of our prehistoric selves remain a part of us now?
Want to see more by and about Tom Holmes?
The Line Break
Buy Poems for an Empty Church
Buy Henri, Sophie, & the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex
Some of Tom’s book, journal, and poster designs