There are Leopards in Our Bones

by Susan Daniel

What is human builds.
There are leopards
in our bones, hyenas
in our throats. Laughing tornado spirits
spin midnight circles in ripening cow corn
behind my house.

What is human, dreams.
I want to choose symbols for us
past 30-minute mysteries
revealing the pseudoscience of crop circles
and speculating intelligence bigger
than our small heads can house
shaping pyramids on two continents. The joke,
if there is one, is on us. Did we not raise a tower so high
God blew it over like a house of cards
scattered in the breath of new languages?

What is human, makes.
There are words in my mouth
I can neither swallow nor give up to breath, this tongue
limiting me to a yes only you hear
and perhaps we too could build something
dangerously tall with our hands
if together we uncovered a voice
that would speak it into being.

What is human, worships.
In other stories a man–one man
they made a god
separated earth from a heaven
that pressed us flat. We are always
feeding gods our young,
choking on sky
and hunting that one thing
that can translate what is written
behind eyes, under tongues.

The neanderthals buried their dead.
They lived alongside us. briefly.
Carbon tells us 100,000 years ago
we mixed paints from ochre & ash.
We danced shadows through smoke,
braided feathers in hair
threaded with sinew

We sang.
Who says what is human
could not imagine Stonehenge?
What is human, builds.
What is human, makes.
What is human, dreams.
What is human, worships.

The neanderthals
buried their dead.

This poem was one of the winners of the dVerse Poets Pub second anniversary contest.


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