Almost every day new information is published about ancient humans and our relationship to them. The evidence they are our ancestors and ancient cousins is overwhelming. The subject is fascinating to me and moved me to write a number of poems about our primate relatives alive, extinct, and on the way to extinction.
Cheek of a Troglodyte (Primate evolution and extinction)
We should stop and contemplate our past and …regret.
A lingering remnant of a primate tear among wrinkles of black skin trickled down
and soon was gone, lost on its journey away from those eyes, blood brown,
that showed no white but saw, with hidden wisdom, the heartbeat of life.
Blue eyes, framed in white, looked back, while deep within a gland another tear was born.
It too found release, rolling down a smooth, pale cheek without hindrance.
Falling to the ground, it was followed by its like, as rain appears from one lonely cloud.
The blood eyes were closed now, the tear was gone, its path now an arroyo, forgotten and dry.
I painted it on his cheek with my brush, but no one noticed and no one cared.
My tears were the only ones that recognized their lonely primate kin,
lost on the cheek of a troglodyte.
Neanderthals & Homo Sapiens.
Up to about 30 thousand years ago they lived together on this earth. Neanderthals became extinct but their genes remain mixed with ours, perhaps providing an immunological advantage to us that has helped us survive to this day.
Two hundred thousand years ago they lived in little bands,
family groups of creatures that survived in dangerous lands.
Life was short and perilous with precious little pleasure,
they lived just long enough to preserve their genetic treasure.
Their brains were large just as ours today,
they were human before we had our day.
They were poised back then to take that final step
toward a future life in which they’d be inept.
Neanderthals lived by instinct with growing conscious power.
Had they continued blooming they’d become bright flowers.
But in that early garden other flowers were about to bloom
in spite of the weeds and brambles from the earth’s green womb.
The ancient flowers did not survive the changing of the seasons
but the new ones did for many unknown reasons.
Life was hard but there was much we’d recognize today
in the struggle to survive and to find a better way.
Crouched figures in a cave around a warming fire
could not begin to guess the skills they’d soon acquire.
That night they shared burning flesh and gathered plants, together.
History would record how they survived by being clever.
There always was a leader followed by the others.
They knew their future suckled at the breasts of mothers.
Survival meant that they must learn all of nature’s rules,
kill or be killed, invent and fashion tools.
That was many years ago when mankind was still a child,
but it is the same today, the world is no less wild.
We still kill and war to survive as they did long ago,
Those smoldering instincts deep in our brains still glow.
Best bring them out from secrete places and meet them face to face.
Best understand that in our life they must have their place.
Best understand that instincts are not as harmless as they seem.
But understand that conscious will must always reign supreme.
Around that ancient campfire the clan knew little of their past,
or of the ancient ones that failed the test and did not last.
Now that we know the story of how they lived and died,
can we learn from their mistakes? This, can we decide?
Your Bones and Breath
Five anthropoid apes have survived and fortunately we are one of them. We evolved together for millions of years but finally left their side to search for our own destructive way.
Farewell, I saw you in your prime, so wild, so free, so much a part of your world, like I could never be in mine.
I traveled, like you, along evolution’s trail, through the darkness without a map, blind without a cane, without a companion to guide me.
I left your side and took a different path, but now I pause.
I look back to see my tortured trail from your side,
to the golden throne I made for myself from your bones and flesh and breath.
Goodbye dark brother, but can you linger one more day to please my eye, dry my tears and hold my naked hand?
When looking for the missing link,
it’s never where we usually think.
I’m told it looks something like me
and something like a chimpanzee.
I’ve heard it often has been found
by paleontologists, in the ground.
But, when its missing place is filled,
those who found it still are grilled
about the links before and after
that still are missing. What disaster!
Tracing far back our family tree
a primate lived who gave rise to me.
She lived so many years ago,
her true birthday we’ll never know.
I’m so glad that she stayed alive,
to begat enough that did survive,
so I could arrive upon the scene,
a hundred percent human-being.
Ever wonder what ancient secrets lie within your self,
old secrets from the past, born of nature’s wealth?
Retired from use, but saved for us in a vaulted store,
they number at least a thousand, but could be many more.
Do we really want to know the secrets in history’s trunk?
They could be a treasure trove, or just a pile of junk.
Should we worry that therein lies a poison pill or two
that just might find their way into our twilight brew?
So now, in anticipation of that sad event,
what can or should we do in order to prevent
the looming ills and sickness of past genetic sores,
that have cursed and blessed mankind, now and evermore?