World’s Oldest String Found at French Neanderthal Site (poem)

Given the ongoing revelations of Neanderthal art and technology, it is difficult to see how we can regard Neanderthals as anything other than the cognitive equals of modern humans.

—Hardy, B.L., Moncel, M., Kerfant, C. et al. Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications. Sci Rep 10, 4889 (2020).

Ask the young tree
when the day gets pungent with blossoms
whether it is ready and willing
and if the tree says yes
let it start working.

The tree will glide the flint’s edge
through skin that bleeds
pale and clear as you cut it
skyward to earthward
then in crueler horizons
high and also low.

The skin will tease itself free
revealing its secret inner face
of infinite tendrils.
(The naked sinew of the tree
will taste sweet to the tongue.)

Three slim bundles
will strand off brightly
and sing their song of weaving
leading your fingers
whirling toward the river
while your wrist
bends ever toward the mountains
and the womb of your palms
gives birth to new vine
and the new vine’s secret.
We begin and we end
but it needs not be so

for the birthing of this vine
into its life of dance and song
needs never end
even as it frays behind us.
So may our birthing
yours and mine
partner ever with our dying
on and on and on


Poem appeared in Sisyphus, Summer 2020.

Photo by Neanderthal-Museum, Mettmann.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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