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Monday, December 02, 2019


by Katherine West 

Paleo Art by John Gurche

Today the wilderness is too big.
Even my own body
was made for an ancient
race created on a larger scale.
My hands are winter gloves,
gorilla hands, capable and waterproof.
My feet leave huge, deep prints
in the snow. My heavy head
is too big for my ski cap,
my thick arms too long for my coat.
I am a Neanderthal. I know what to do.
I have survived a lot. Wilderness and I
are the same size. Language
does not interest us. Nor love.

And yet, deep inside, resting under
my primitive heart like a baby,
is my modern self. And like a fetus
I curl in the warmth of the prehistoric
womb and suck my thumb.
I have bad dreams. I cry, but my tears
are absorbed by amniotic fluid
and my moans are muffled by blood.

I want to talk. I want to dance.
I want to read a book. Write a poem.
But everyone else is interested in survival—
their own, not mine. Like my splendid
cave woman, they eat meat. Not words.
Not views. Their dogs run off
with sheep innards hanging from their mouths.

They are right. I am wrong.
These holidays are about having enough
to eat. Not having enough to love.
We have come full circle—
grown thin and sensitive then
muscular and numb all over again.
My neighbor may freeze, but as long
as I don't, life is good.

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness, performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov, and teaches seasonal poetry workshops that revolve around "wilderness writing." She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba and Bombay Gin. Her poem "And Then the Sky" was recently nominated by TheNewVerse.News for a Pushcart Prize.