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When we were human

By Jeannine Marie Pitas

When we lived in houses like books lining the shelves of Borges’ library.

When each of our stories was a hagiography in the encyclopedia of saints.

When we sat around kitchen tables sipping tea, words floating from our lips like butterflies bearing enormous scrolls.

When we unravelled that parchment and still understood the strange cursive letters that moved and flowed like worms beneath the earth.

When we stuck our heads out the slow train’s windows. Beneath us, the rails were singing.

When we got lost in a forest of conifers, when we made a wrong turn and ended up in the next town.

When we took pictures of wasps, for they too were made of light.

When we watched the rain falling gently on mushrooms.

When we stepped over wet stones in the dark forest, when we searched for stars in the mist.

When the hum of mosquitoes was still the holiest prayer.

When the veins of our hands were still roots, and flowers sprouted from them as we grew old.

Now –

Now that we know all movement is rotation.

Now that we are as motionless as stars.

Now that we search for ammonite fossils in the marble floors of shopping malls, reaching to touch the galaxy’s spiral, but only feeling cracks.

Now that we neither kneel on pebbles at the river’s edge nor stare down at it from high crags.

Now that we would never stop to stroke the scales of a forest snake.

Now that we don’t stand up to pray the Angelus at noon, and our voices no longer touch each other like folded hands.

Now that all our languages have converged into a single word which we repeat again and again.

They tell us we have not changed.

They tell us we are as we always were.

If anything, we are greater now, closer to the angels we once prayed to.

They tell us that we should be grateful, as we drift from now to now.

They tell us that we are still human.

But I don’t believe them.

JEANNINE MARIE PITAS, a Buffalo area native, is the author of the poetry chapbook “Our Lady of the Snow Angels” (Lyricalmyrical Press, 2012) and the English language translator of “The History of Violets” (Historial de las violetas) by acclaimed Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). A graduate of Nardin Academy and Sarah Lawrence College, she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.