Deborah L. Davitt


I hear the rumble of your roar, lion-man,
rolling down through the ages
straight out of the past;

the sound curls around me as I study
the cuts made by ancient flint
into your ivory,
chiseled out so precisely—

the soft curve of your ears,
the ruffles of your fur,
the smooth, hard planes
of thick hide-armor
that embrace your frame;

I can see the strength of your legs,
like pillars,
the power of your arms, like tree branches
where seven parallel lines scarify you,
mark you out;

I can feel the patience
of the one who wrought you
in silence and absorption,
trying to capture
the living essence of the cave lion
and to bind it into man or god;

the world was a more fluid place
where animals and humans lived
that much closer together
where nature was wild and dangerous
and always at the door;

how much danger did the artist feel
how much that was sublime
and truly awe-full
pressed on him as he worked,
day by day, month by month
to bring you to life?

We cannot know these days—
we’re cut off from the sublime
and lessened for it,
so we must listen for even subtle sounds
out of the past
that will teach us what it means
to live on survival’s razor edge
not in squalor
but where every day
is a victory.


Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and son. Her prize-winning poetry has appeared in over fifty journals, including F&SF and Asimov’s. Her award-winning prose has appeared in venues such as Analog and Lightspeed. For more about her work, including her poetry collections, The Gates of Never and Bounded by Eternity, and her chapbook, From Voyages Unending, please see www.edda-earth.com

Author’s Backstory and/or Crafting: I have a fascination for ancient artifacts, and had been reading about items found in cave dwellings, which led me to the Löwenmensch figurine—which researchers now believe to be a representation of a female human and female cave lion, melded together. Its long history of careful, cautious reconstruction intrigued me, and as I went about writing the poem, I looked up where the figurine is housed—the Museum of Ulm. I decided that I wanted to purchase a replica of the figure but! Alas! The museum didn’t offer credit card or Paypal payments, or shipment to the US. I figured this was a lost cause, until my mom (who was born in Germany) and her brother’s widow aligned their forces, and through a series of bank transfers, a replica was ordered for my Christmas gift, and now proudly sits in my living room. I am proud to have given the statue new life with this publication, and I hope that many more people will read about it, and will feel inspired by this ancient piece of art.

Editor’s Comments and/or Image Credits: The Löwenmensch figurine, also called the Lion-man [Lion-woman?] of Hohlenstein-Stadel, is a prehistoric ivory sculpture discovered in Hohlenstein-Stadel, a German cave, in 1939. The German name, Löwenmensch, meaning “lion-person”. [Wikipedia]

The image is that of the Löwenmensch figurine after restoration in 2013.


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