‘Painting is the language of loss. The scraping-off of layers of paint, again and again, the rebuilding, the losing again. Hoping, then despairing, then hoping…
… Painting is like the handprint on the cave wall.’
Celia Paul 
Song of Pech Merle 
Step down, step down, through rock and oak roots
Breathe in, breathe out, my ancient air
Listen, listen, to my dripping, trickling, seeping bones
See my cave pearls glisten, tops spin, marbles roll
Feel my crystalline corals and translucent draperies vibrate
Smell my cold earth damp tang; clay and silt and sand
Take my hand and I will show you my dappled horses.
Follow my footprints, they will take you to the bison women
If you are lucky, they will tell you of their dreams–suspended
in calcite rings–of hieroglyph ceilings, bear scratches, bulls and lyres
Stroke my skin with hematite, red ochre, burnt sienna and red earth
Smear my ribs with goethite, limonite, raw sienna and yellow ochre
Stipple my eyes with pyrolusite, brown ochre, burnt umber and charcoal
Turn your gaze inwards and float through helictites and dripstones,
aragonite iridescences shifting and tilting. Emerge through scree,
past hair and bone, into soft green.
 Celia Paul, Self-Portrait, p.152. London: Jonathan Cape, 2019
 Pech Merle is a prehistoric cave in Cabrerets, France (https://en.pechmerle.com/).
Valerie Norris is an artist and writer based in Dundee.
‘The Bitter Cup’ by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan is published by Book Works in association with Hospitalfield, Arbroath, 2019. www.bookworks.org.uk/node/1988