Ancestors

I am a born refugee from a long line of refugees
From the blowy fields of Latvia to the Russian steppes
Gypsies and barons, unknown and unnamed peasants
Bits from Siberia and Maghreb alike, and urban tumults as well

Like a hard, ornery piece of stray conglomerate
Pierced, cracked, and fragmented, but still unchanged
Molded by the long, strange passage of time and grief
Joy and monotony, plumped down here to explain it all

My people came from Africa, before civilization,
Before time pressed closely in undelineated space
Long before the ice had eased its grip
And waters lay below landscapes long unseen

Refugees from a refuge grown too narrow, too cruel
Somehow no longer able to provide that sustenance
That feeds not only the belly, but the heart and soul as well
That held them to its withered dugs too tightly, too long

Well, yes, that, but the beginning was long before
In the tangle of tree and savannah, of tooth and of claw
That claimed the slow and feeble to feed the fat cats.
We, the slow and feeble, made an art of it

Our teeth and claws, dulled by native indecision
We replaced with bits of sharp stone
The tough sinews of creatures accustomed to hard living
We softened to our tongues with tongues of fire

We scraped the marrow from within pliant fibers
And bent the fibers to our own will
Binding, cupping and stitching until we carried
All our joys and sorrows in one great pouch.

Our ancestors before then were scurrying scruffy wads of fluff
With sharp little teeth, and claws on all four legs
For clinging to their world in three dimensions
While the great buffet of alien, lightly armored food drifted by

The legs were fins, and the fins muddled probes
And all was tiny living cells who, once upon a time,
By quirk or compromise, began to cleave together
Each heedless of its own demise in the cloud of protoplasmic ingenuity

All in one long, unbroken line, one great flapping rag
Of a prayer, as unlikely as unicorns
Down to the present time
Down to you and me

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