I. THE APE
Like a chimp in a storm
we revert to a norm,
each baby’s a bomb
and their poise and aplomb
is a jack-in-a-box
full of fireworks and shocks,
full of colour, noise, light
full of anguish, delight,
rending, mending and tending,
and losing and finding,
abusing and minding,
both stupid and clever
but moving forever,
and dancing and singing
for there’s no escape
from the million year ape,
from our in-built, inherited shape.
II. EXTERNAL LANDSCAPE
Somewhere a cleft cliff overhang, a cave
where we can stay dry, have a fire, and sleep;
though lions and bears growl outside, we feel brave–
Worship the Cave, Earth’s Deep.
Somewhere, huge in an open plain, a tree–
to climb for refuge, or the whole world see,
loving its fruit, leaves, wood, its shade from glare–
Worship the Tree, Earth’s fountain into air.
Somewhere a river ends where sea’s begun
and marshlands hold vast clouds of birds and fish,
and moon and tides swing like the winds and sun–
Worship the Waters, fresh, salt, both Earth’s gifts.
Somewhere the lightning strikes, a forest burns;
only one thing runs to it, not away,
one creature uses it to make night day,
cook food, stay warm, make tools, dance round and play–
Worship the Fire, on which being human turns.
Somewhere the landscape most potential shows:
more people, and some wary bird or beast;
by integrating them the human grows
into the landscape’s richness, Nature’s feast–
Worship the Richness with which life’s increased.
III. INTERNAL LANDSCAPE
Climbing, foraging and hunting,
running, loping, chasing something–
we were built for this.
An open field with a large tree,
a path towards a far blue sea–
the landscape we think bliss.
Keeping dogs, cats, birds as friends,
sharing food for no clear ends–
Pigs, cows, sheep, ducks, geese as pets,
eating them without regrets–
And talking, dancing, running, singing,
friends and lovers, parents, children,
social, single, energetic,
meditative or frenetic…
we’re a tribal ape at heart,
without the wild we fall apart,
the ape’s our essence, end as well as start.
This poem was just published in Snakeskin, a very appropriate magazine from the point of view of its name, whose meaning is spelled out in the Credo in its first issue back in 1995:
The serpent whispered unto Eve:
“Think and feel; don’t just believe.”
This made the earth’s foundations shake.
We are the kindred of that snake. (…)
We trust no level tones; we ride
The roller-coaster of our pride.
The gonads’ rage, and yearning’s ache
Speak through the kindred of the snake.
In other words, no matter how much we develop our civilisation, no matter how much we tinker with our genetics, no matter how much we turn our decision-making over to AI, we need to acknowledge and work with – and enjoy – the primitive drivers and needs that are inherent in our physical and psychological makeup.
In other words (this time Nietzsche’s), “Stay true to the earth, my brothers,” even while looking forward to the coming of the Superman, for we are still part ape, and our coheret progress depends on our awareness of that, and of self-knowledge in general.
Technically the poem is a mish-mash of forms, somewhat casual in structure by formal standards, but rich in rhythm and rhyme. And this too is in keeping with Snakeskin’s Credo:
Nor shall we sit to lunch with those
Who moralise in semi-prose.
A poem should be rich as cake,
Say the kindred of the snake.
Enjoy! And my thanks to Snakeskin’s George Simmers.