The Mark

Anders Carlson-Wee
Photo by Matty Adame

Some say fire, some say language.
Some say God made us in his image 
on the sixth day. Some say tools,  

some religion. Some say whenever 
we first dug a hole, marked 
a grave—maybe the Neanderthal 

family found in northern Spain:
skulls, ribs, jaws, dozens of teeth, 
a nearly complete spine, a hand,  

every carpal intact, arranged 
below flowstone almost as in life. 
Some say art, some crude representation.  

Some say cooked caribou 
catalyzed the boom in our brains. 
Mother, father, child, infant. 

Harris lines in the femurs told 
how meager their meals were. 
Their collarbones gnawed on, sawed  

through, hacked at with flint tools, 
rib cages crushed with something blunt 
to get at the liver and marrow: 

if they were buried they were buried 
by their murderers. Some say up-
right gaits, opposable thumbs,  

three-pound brains. Their skulls 
cloven with engraved lithic blades.
The written word. Ritual.  

Organs still warm in the middle.
Empathy. A sense of shame. Some say 
we’re still on the way to human.