Tassili Fresco

Across these frightful sands cows

once were driven

the grottoes in the riven hills

still depict their story

Here on the savannah sward

danced men and women, painted mask wearers,

creating gods from earth and sky,

the life givers, the healers,

the killers with blood

and the killers with insidious secrecy

Under the darkening ledges

lived a people, gay artistic

lovers of cattle

dwellers in round huts of brushwood

ritual makers whose evening glance

perceived green meadows, running streams

and great curved crags

mouthed with waterfalls

charged with a roar

of lions and of water

Gone now are the pointilliste giraffes

of the painter people,

gone the lions

and the waterfalls.

Terrible the landscape

bleached, parched beyond conception.

Only the mountains stand,

saharan chessmen

weirdly frozen in a forgotten game.

Only the paintings recall

the liveliness of these people

the fresh dawn of man,

love of animals, a

deep respect in this green country

of another age.