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Wednesday, September 04, 2019


by Alejandro Escudé

The face of the oldest species that unambiguously sits on the human evolutionary tree has been revealed for the first time by the discovery of a 3.8 million-year-old skull in Ethiopia. Above: A partial facial reconstruction using the fossil. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian, August 28, 2019.

“President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was looking ‘very seriously’ at ending the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil. Trump spoke to reporters as he departed the White House for a speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He said birthright citizenship was ‘frankly ridiculous.’ —Time, August 21, 2019

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” —The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

He died beside a river
and now, four million years later,
his cranium—his face, eyes looking through us
as if we were the moon in fog
four million years ago, a Wednesday,
though there were no Wednesdays and no
citizenship, only toddlers climbing trees,
only the chewing of grist,
the rock, the rock, the rock, the tree, the tree, the tree.
For what is birthright? Who belongs to what nation?
Can a nation really exit? Exit what?
Ask Australopithecus anamensis. He will tell you,
that loopy grin, earthy beard. Skin of our skin.
Heart of our heart. What do we feel
for him? Love? Ignorance is intolerance.
Historical, the complete skull.
No Lucy counterpart, a separate being.
What of the son born in a common territory
across the sea? Will he climb trees
with his brothers and sisters? Will he murder
other species of human? Or mate?
We may never know the ancient map-way
of genes that led here— the trail
of skulls shattered by time,
but we have that face, his face,
and we have the love that dissolves time,
and understanding, yes,
our birthright going back to Ethiopia,
our citizenship papers rolled
within the hollow bones of the birds.

Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.