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.