Animal theme cave-painting, Lacaux, France

Imagine the first poem. The very first one. The one they didn’t call a poem then. Wonder if it was about the night sky, its endlessness, or its frailty, all ready to come down outside the cave. No. That couldn’t be it. Too apocalyptic. Was it the one about the dying child—a mother lifting and watching his lifeless hand drop at his side? Was it about those first tears the gathered didn’t understand? No. That wouldn’t be it either. Too sentimental for post-modern Neanderthal poetry, ¿no? Was it about the sharpened lance; how it cut the finger of the hunter during sharpening, stone on stone? No. Ridiculous. Hard to know exactly how they cursed then. Was it the falling hair of the greatest warrior now sitting alone on the outskirts of that forest? No. Too fugit irreprabile tempus (stolen from Machado). Can’t put a finger on it. Just keep thinking about that naked child splashing on the lake, the first snow of winter, the very first smile.

But Catuxa[1] suggests it should be imagined this way:

The first first poem. The first one. There were no poems. The night sky, endlessness, frailty, falling-crushing outside cave. Apocalyptic. Dying child. Mother lifts hand, watches lifelessness. Tears from the gathered? Sentimental post-modern Neanderthals. No? Sharpened lance sharpening – sharpening – sharpening on stone. A cut finger—silence from non-existent curses. Falling hair, lonely warrior. Lost time—irreparably Machado. No. Understanding is never: naked, child splashing, lake, first snow, winter, first smile. Ever. The first.

[1] Catuxa de Palmeira is a Galician poet that recently presented the above two writings at a reading in Spain as examples of a concrete—give the reader all poem—in contrast to a more abstract work that allegedly “lets the reader / audience interact with the poem, thus making it the reader’s since it is no longer the poet’s once it leaves her control.”