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“As we were in the beginning” by Jorge Monterrosa

Jorge Monterrosa is a poet and short story writer. Originally from Los Angeles, Jorge moved to New York to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2012 he graduated from Long Island University with a master's degree in education, he currently teaches in the UAE and performs at his work at local venues in the area.

Transcript : “As we were in the beginning”

Nothing elegant about the human odyssey,
We began hunting and gathering criss-crossing the African savannah,
Without claws or fangs to defend ourselves, we did everything to evade
The leopard, jackal, and the cheetah.
Wandering through the supernatural blackness covering the blanket of night,
It was early in our timeline,
We still regarded ourselves guests,
And watched in wonder as the sky flicked on and off,
Celestial welders on a distant star.
We slept in open fields atop thistles and thorns,
Or in caves carved into mountains by water and eons,
Drawing elk and bison on the walls to say we were here,
Later on, stairwells and subway cars to say we were here,
All we had was each other. The terrain was harsh and unforgiving.
We rubbed sticks together and made fire to take us out of the darkness,
Congregated around our flaming orbs like tiny planets,
Roasted meat and reminded ourselves of things we should remember.
Together we were strong.
Making tools—we increased the reach and power of our hands,
In this way, we achieved dominion over the beasts of the earth,
Corralled sheep and goats into pens,
Settled along rivers and banks,
And gave birth to agriculture.
We grew wheat and corn, rice, and barley.
Organized villages and communities and established civilization,
Harnessed the wind, mastered the seas,
Created the wheel and writing,
Mapped the stars,
Etched our likeness into stone and imagined poetry,
Invented song to celebrate our humanness and dance to celebrate our song,
We learned to store and conserve,
Soon we had abundance,
And our abundance made us insecure,
We built walls and armies to protect us from ourselves,
Invented the word “Mine”
Turned our brethren into chattel and became slaves to our possessions,
Our genius for creation could be rivaled only by our genius for destruction.
We built weapons that cut men down from long distances,
Weapons that could incinerate entire populations,
Erected hospitals as tributes to the diseases we sired,
Built prisons as monuments to desperation,
Befouled the rivers that had quelled our thirst and stripped the earth of her motherhood,
Offering indelible testament
That we are closer to the apes than we are to the angels

Poem Credits: Jorge Monterrosa

This poem was presented as part of the “Spoken Art” programme that was curated by Dorian Rogers

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