Photo of Michael Cadnum

Michael Cadnum is the author of thirty-eight books, including the National Book Award finalist The Book of the Lion.  Several of Cadnum’s books have been released as audio books by Audible, and Open Road has published e-book editions of many of his classic thrillers.  His most recent books are Earthquake Murder:  short fiction, and a book of animal poetry titled Kingdom.  A new book of poems, The Promised Rain, is in-progress. He lives in Albany, California.

Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCadnum.


Cave Painting


The story is not long.

The wounded animal turns

stumbling over the spears already


thrust into the red future, flint points

puncturing the dawn to come

and the end is one heartbeat, two,


no more. The land is wide and made of stone.

The horizon is unseen, but also stone. The delighted,

fearful cheers, too, are grain

beside grain of limestone.

The almost sundered bison,

extinct auroch, horned survivor’s


forelegs are giving in with the freshly

stubborn not-yet. Not yet.

It will not be long.

But the telling.

The telling is all


the rest of the evening we know

without seeing, bay trees and streams

of jasper and jade rolled down from

the silent summit into vowels.

Ocher and charcoal

marshal the hungry, and command them


endlessly into a team, the account

never ceasing as breath never

ceases but continues

the loop in and out as long


as there is a pulse,

the hunters poised

beside the handprint,

the celebrant signature blood-

telling wound that always

only begins.


Cave Painting appeared originally in Commonweal Magazine