Issue 4,  Poetry

When We Were Neanderthals by Raymond Luczak

When we were Neanderthals,
we all fucked, clinging
to each other in the cold
snap of night, not caring
to know anything more
than the necessities
of food, shelter, safety.
We didn’t comprehend
the universe then:
why did the skies change
the bed sheets of night and day?
Why did the moon appear?
Why snow? Why heat?
It would take us generations
to figure out our first language,
gestures becoming sounds.
We began to see patterns
among the animals and plants
we ached to eat. We hunted
and harvested what we ate.
Each of us became oracles,
passing down knowledge
through the power of tongue.
Still, our world baffled us.
Late at night in front of a fire,
we made up stories to explain
the mysterious ways of the world
around us. Our gods appeared
at first as shadows flickering
until one story after another
they were given qualities
that amplified our innermost desires
until they appeared superhuman.
We soon believed that
we didn’t belong to the earth.
We had been breathed into life
by our gods from above.
Thus believing kissed by them,
therefore blessed, we strode
forth into the darkest fringes
of the land that seemed to unravel
into the forever of sea.
Sometimes mountains arose
and whipped us with chilly winds.
Nevertheless, believing ourselves
divinely blessed, we plowed on.
Our egos swelled when we saw
how much of our kind and the land
we could manipulate and conquer;
yet how afraid we remain to see
the future myths of our downfall.
But time has proven to be
the greatest storyteller of all.
The lies we tell ourselves fade away
when in the face of science
we learn the speed of a ray of light
hurled from the scorching sun.
It takes only eight minutes
across 93 million miles for such
warmth to come bless our faces
on a fine summer morning.
That’s why we still fuck,
traveling those 93 million miles
yin-yanging between ourselves
until we experience at last
the full eight minutes of everything
in this universe and then some.

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Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 22 books. Titles forthcoming in 2019 include Flannelwood (Red Hen Press) and Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares & Rebels). He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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