A new poem by Stephanie Warner

In the caves of Niaux we wander
the exhibit of ancient tools: arrowheads
of flint, scrapers, needles, the fluid, almost effete
line used to render the sacred bull.

I think of you, the world’s fanciest
Swiss army knife, trawling a crater
the size of Texas, blinking digital photographs
of Mars: the same slate Victorian sky,
corroded sweep of desert.

In a Turner or Constable it was the dash
of red—a wheelbarrow or a hunting dog—
that set off the dense English foliage.
Such a trick is needed. Something cold ladders
my spine: your meticulous labour,
the caterpillar tracks not stitching,
but embroidering the stock
dunes and crags.

Your soul an algorithm created by PhD candidates
in Silicone Valley. But when your machinery seizes,
as it must, and you slough the sheet-metal
like the platelets of a langoustine,
your motherboard furred with rust,
what of the dogma: No Stone
Left Unturned. Even the brainless
jellyfish will die of agitation if left
in a tank with corners.

In the end, it’s not the ancient tools,
or the showstopper of man’s first grasping
at abstraction, but a snarl of ferns, coiled tightly
as clockwork in the tour’s deepest gallery. Under
the LED light, roots, fine as hair,
cling to wet stone, photosynthesizing
an artificial moon.


STEPHANIE WARNER’s poetry has appeared in Event, Descant, Arc, This Magazine, The Malahat Review, and Prairie Fire and the Montreal International Poetry Prize Global Anthology. Her first collection of poetry will be released with Fitzhenry & Whiteside in the spring of 2017.