THE MUSEUM ISSUE

M.C. Allan

 

Evolution


Distrust exhibits about us:
the ape who longs or walks upright
.......or makes a tool to dig or stab
.......or coals a mammoth on a wall
is not you, or the uniformed guard,
or that boy climbing the platform to get to the elephant,
....... ....... ....... ....... .......or his mother in irritable pursuit.

....... ....... .......Evolution is separation.
The couple entering through the metal detector
kisses and divides,
....... ....... .......he to the Hall of Sharks, she to the Room of Bees,

past marble, echoes, fossils of trilobites
embedded in the columns, accretions of sediment
....... .......neatly labeled by eon, animal tableaus:

cheetahs tearing at wildebeest,
the changing bones in hips and skulls
....... ....... .......of monkeys, each learning
.......to stand or
....... ....... .......leap sideways from one trunk to the next or
eat one kind of fruit
....... ....... .......by pushing a thumb through rind to get at pulpy seeds.

.......Once marmosets, tamarins, bonobos
did this too, slurped the fleshy fruit from fingers—
....... ....... .......but then
....... ....... .......each
....... ....... .......tried something else:
cracked a nut against a rock,
....... ....... .......rooted in a log for grubs,
.......dangled over a lagoon until a fish leaped up

....... ....... .......and its hands
....... ....... .......reached out to grab it—
....... ....... ....... .......not out of desire but because
.......that is what hands do: seize what
....... ....... .......leaps unexpectedly into view.

....... ....... .......The hand of the mother
right now is for spanking, for seizing
.......the squalling boy. He knows his hands
are for touching the elephant;
.......already he can almost feel
.......the wrinkly knees, the willful trunk.

The woman is sailing
over the grass and the traffic, her tiny legs
....... ....... .......coated with pollen;

....... ....... .......the man is swallowing
....... ....... .......great schools
of fish, his teeth serrating flesh.

....... ....... ....... .......You are lost
....... ....... ....... .......in shards of jasper:
....... ....... ....... .......each stone small, still,
.......demarking perfect miniature landscapes
.......of pine or sagebrush
....... .......in such delicate detail they could not
....... ....... .......have appeared
.......by coincidence of pressures and of time.
Someone must have placed them there; something
must drive these figures—

....... ....... ....... ....... ....... .......If you will be reborn
....... ....... ....... ....... ....... .......it will not be in fire or with great wings,
....... ....... .......but in such rooms recalling
....... .......how it is or was
....... ....... .......to be lion.
....... ....... ....... .......To be basalt or botulin, to blossom.
....... .......To be stone etched with mountain embroidered with pine,
each tree solitary, each valley echoing back strange voices.

....... ....... ....... ....... .......But in the hallway, safe from the depths
....... ....... .......of sapphires' silences, you watch over the lobby
where hundreds mill about, generating their us,
.......that indistinguishable hissing hum.

.......The boy and his mother have vanished.

.......Still: In the shadow of the elephant,
.......the bee and the shark reunite.
....... ....... .......They are tentative; they feel
diaphanous wings, blue leather of fins dissolving.

....... ....... .......Their human feet slide again over the marble,

....... ....... ....... ....... .......then each grasps in gratitude
....... ....... ....... ....... .......the other's peculiar hand.

M. C. Allan’s poetry and fiction have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, and Potomac Review. She is a graduate of Hollins University's creative writing program and works as a writer and editor for the Humane Society of the United States. She was born in Pakistan, has lived in Taiwan, Holland, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and now resides in exotic Takoma Park, Maryland, with her two muses: her husband, food writer Tim Carman, and their fat beagle mix.

 

 

Published in Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2009.