As Busy Fingers made magic
with fluff and cord, so Cobble
made magic with stones.
Cobble didn't think of it
as magic, but everyone else
nodded and agreed, yes,
that was definitely magic.
He would put one stone
on top of another stone,
sometimes softly but
other times quite hard.
He would rub stones together,
or hit them to make sharp edges.
Where the stones touched,
they left marks, white or colored,
shallow or deep, round pocks
and long gouges.
Sometimes he made patterns --
long rows of parallel lines,
or dots, triangles like teeth and
the strange six-sided shapes
that mud made when it cracked.
Cobble had a way of trapping ideas
between two stones, like catching
the tail of a mouse that had
gotten into the grain.
He would lift up the stone
and say the new word,
so that everyone would
The people had plenty of words
already, some of them the same and
others different from the Hand People
to the Tall People to the Strong People.
Anyone could make a new word,
of course, and most people had --
but only Cobble would sit there
all day long and whack out
a whole basketful of fresh words
like knapping off flakes of flint.
Then his woman Gullwing would come
with their son Speckle fastened to her hip
in a leather sling. She gathered up
the flint for scraping skins and
the words for telling stories.
It got to where people would leave
things for Cobble to think about and see
if there were any words to be found
by banging rocks together.
Busy Fingers left raw wool and
thick cord and thin cord, got back
thread and yarn and rope --
tried to ask why three of these
and none of that, but
Cobble just waved a hand at his stones
as if it was all their doing and none of his.
In the end, Busy Fingers picked up
her cord and her new words and
went back to her own work,
because that's just how magic was.
* * *
Petroglyphs are among the oldest art known to humankind.
A streak test involves dragging a rock across a rough white plate, usually ceramic, to see the color of trail it leaves. Often this is quite different from the apparent color of the rock.
Doodling helps people to think better. Homo erectus were doodling scratches 500,000 years ago; they are the Tall People in this series. Cobble belongs to the Strong People (Homo ergaster), but with several subspecies living together, they would logically influence each other. His woman Gullwing is a Tall Person, and their adopted son Speckle is a Hand Person (Homo habilis).
Mud cracks tend to form geometric shapes, often rectilinear or hexagonal.