5000 Year Old Man (discovered intact in Europe)

... A Poem



It was late fall, winter's edge,

too late to graze the flock

on mountain slopes.

No hawk circled on the heights.

We should have been in the valley now.

I lay down in a sheltered place,

a ravine, a kind of moraine.

My journey had been long,

my goats attacked, dispersed

by panther and by bear;

their prey the kid to young to run,

the brave but foolish buck,

one charge too many to protect.


I lay down in my deerskin shirt and pants,

hair-side out, pulling my rush-woven cloak

about me, deerskin boots stuffed

with dry grass to blunt near-winter's bite.

I dozed, I dreamed...

of darkest void and misty night

shot through with brilliant, blinding light

like streams of stars, great bursts of sun,

the roaring cave-mouth fire

that shoots its orange and yellow sparks

likes swarms of summer gnats and flies,

like stars that fall in mountain nights...


I wish I had my cave tonight.

I wish I had its warmth,

the flame of fire and close-packed flesh...

the snow began to softly fall

and in his sleep

he dreamed of warmth...


He looks between his mother's heavy legs at flames

that climb the roasting rabbit his father slew,

staring at the orange, the green and blue,

beneath a pile of gentle skins

softened by his mother's chew

that yet contain the spirit of the deer

as the marmot's golden burrow grass

still holds the warmth of August passed...


The marmot in its darkened den

has bid farewell to light and sun

and lies with hands on breast

like otter holding fish or shell

while swimming on its back.

Gopher teeth protrude from parted lips'

slow-sounding snores of deep content,

summer's graze of leaf and root

turned fat, well-cushioned ribs

beneath a thick and lustrous coat.

The matted grass that softens burrow earth

rustles when the marmot turns in dreams

of tart, sweet herbs and harmony,

sun-warmed rocks and flesh,

the springtime promise yet to be,

sunny sprawl and play,

the sharp, quick stab of searing heat

in search and finding of a mate.


I, too, turned but few times in my sleep,

but unlike the marmot in its dreams,

hugged tight my skins and cloak

in tired confusion's vain attempt

at warmth, covering my head with reeds,

joining deep marmot thoughts, ant and pebble thoughts

of moss and snow, goats and distant gods,

times that never were

and could never be again.


The snow that slowly covered him,

like down on geese, was warming

for a time,

like piles of hides and skins

that from the bear protected him

when snuggled under as a child

looking past his mother's legs

at the rabbit roasting in the flames.

But not warm enough.

Deeper, deeper the silent, hissing snow,

until his slowly breathing body

was but a mound of white,

and then the ravine was level with the slope.

A million geese would have to die

for such a downy harvest.

Soon his breathing slowed and stopped,

then started once again,

like waking from a dream,

to slow and stop once more,

to stop and dream forever,

lying on his side,

left arm under his head...


He lay and he lay in time's embrace,

and a great cold came

that turned the snow to ice.

He was entombed in ice,

a trap geese always seek to flee,

breaking through their earthly tie,

the sloth of time and place,

by leaping to the sky,

the stars' eternal call, and space.

His sleep was the dream of life and death.


Shadowed shafts of light and whirling walls

of mist and doubt and hope and night

played out their timeless mix,

his woven strand of fiber rope,

his cups and case of bark around him laid,

until 5000 years had passed,

a moment in the universe,

unlikely, endless span to man,

and he was found by mountain hikers

peering out of melting ice...

They thought me one of them, at first,

dead by foul play, accident.


I look much like you,

but I think I am not much like you.

I am from another time, another race,

a place unknown, forgotten;

not a better one, I'll grant,

younger, but no worse than yours,

from what I see with head and eyes

now clear of ice.


But I do not pretend to remember,

myself. I'm not sure I recall the stars,

the swift, loud crack of partridge wings,

the squeal of goats young in spring,

butting play and joy of mountain living,

flowers, grass, hot sunshine, bees,

and bears and panthers, of course,

always the panther and the bear.


I am getting tired now.

I think I will sleep again

if only the snow will fall

and gently let me sleep once more...


He lay in brilliant solitude in timeless snow and ice,

if free from wriggling maggot frenzy,

like myriad pale puppies that squirm for love,

And janitorial jaws of ever-searching ants,

then surely beyond the reach of nosy gods and man...


I dream, I dream of time and space...

The light, the light, the light.


Copyright by Don Gray


Don Gray Art  •  Poems