there are leopards in our bones

what is human builds.
there are leopards
in our bones, hyenas
in our throats, growling
& now laughing tornado spirits
spin small midnight circles
in ripening cow corn behind my house.
i want to choose symbols for us
past 30-minute television channel mysteries
revealing the pseudoscience of crop circles
& speculating intelligence bigger
than our small heads shaping pyramids
on two continents.  the joke’s
on us.  did we not raise a tower so high
God blew it over like a house of cards
scattered in the breath of new languages?

what is human, makes.
there is truth in my mouth
i cannot surrender to breath.  this tongue
limits me to a yes only you hear
& perhaps we too could build something
dangerously tall with these hands
if together we uncovered a voice
that would speak it into being

what is human, worships.
in other stories a man–one man
they made a god
separated earth from a heaven
that pressed us flat.  we are always
feeding gods our young
choking on sky
& hunting that one thing
that can translate what is written
behind eyes, under tongues

the neanderthals buried their dead.
they lived alongside us.  briefly.
carbon tells us 100,000 years ago
we mixed paints from ochre & ash.
we danced shadows through smoke,
pressed earth smooth to wood drums,
bone flutes;
braided feathers in hair
threaded with sinew

we sang.
who says what is human
could not envision stonehenge?
what is human, builds.
what is human, makes.
what is human, worships.

the neanderthals
buried their dead.

About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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54 Responses to there are leopards in our bones

  1. nelle says:

    Perhaps the Neanderthals painted with us, once. Perhaps they too sang. Such is the work of conjecture, but in the here and now, there are a lot of lessons in history, in who we are, if we strip away the pretence and zero in on essence.

  2. Excellent.. I love it ❤

  3. Wow Susan–just a wonderful piece–great imagery and great meaning–loved this!

  4. You keep raising the ceiling. Bravo! 🙂

  5. boomiebol says:

    Bravo on this piece Susan, bravo

  6. davidtrudel says:

    Another great read. Your creative powers are truly inspiring. I like the animal within us imagery and then the introduction of the distant timescale and the Neanderthal past. Brilliant.

  7. unfetteredbs says:

    wowsers!! I love the second stanza. ( le clown’s huge face is staring at me when I write this comment.. he is scaring me)

  8. Bruce Ruston says:

    this is most excellent loved the thoughts and images running through it

  9. claudia says:

    great one…leopards
    in our bones, hyenas
    in our throats… love how you go back and how you paint that picture…esp. love the second to last stanza…makes me wanna mix paints from ochre & ash…

  10. Mary says:

    An amazing poem, Susan. And the last two stanzas were truly inspired!

  11. poemblaze says:

    i love the leopards in our bones. Interesting write throughout!

  12. kelly says:

    this has such power rippling all the way through it, i could hear drums beating.

  13. ayala says:

    Great write and imagery .

  14. brian miller says:

    haha this is fantastical….i love the symbolism through the first part…this works really well as spoken word as you are so engaging with the audience….there is power in your words as well…the solid closure as well brings it home and i esp love the off beat last bit on the neanderthals….

  15. ManicDdaily says:

    The neanderthals were pretty talented I think -a s are you. k.

  16. kaykuala says:

    The neanderthals already had semblance of communities and living within societies.Though theirs were uncomplicated lives. But to be able to give back those cave drawings,the concentric circles, stonehenges. Were they the ones or some others or some greater beings that helped. Nicely Susan!


  17. Hi,
    The command is – Say it! but I don’t quite know how to….epic is the first word that came to my mind so I am writing that here…

  18. Tony says:

    The symbolism, the imagery, the rhythm – there’s so much to love about this. Encore!

  19. Wow! Lots to ponder in this one. It seems to have so many layers and angles. My english lit teacher would have had a field day (week?) making us analyze this one. Wonderful write!

  20. This is exceptional Susan. I like having read it back to back with Emmett’s. From one mother – the mitochondrial eve comes this celebration of human life. What we do, what we are, how we sing, how we feel goodness, grace flows in all our veins. We are cousins, we are a family. It’s time we all recognized this – laid down weapons, and learned to love one another!

  21. Gene says:

    An engaging piece, reassuring us of our potential, flawed though we may be 🙂

  22. Dick Jones says:

    A powerful and lyrical meditation of the human equivalent of ‘the green fuse that drives the flower’.

    • oh, goodness, Dick, I am stunned, really, that my little lines could bring to mind an image crafted by one of my favorite poets, ever. Wow. Thanks so very, very much, and I hope DT is not too offended 😉

  23. Beth Winter says:

    Wow. A strong, strong poem. The ending blew me away. Incredible. I believe that the thought that will be stuck in my head all day is that there are hyenas in our throats. If I say it out loud, someone is sure to look at me as though I grew a second head but it is so true that I can’t let it go. Well done.

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