markings

our ancestor, the ancient man
with a deep tan, creeping on fours,
beset with at best a few years
on the Earth’s crust
thought only of what he must,
thrashing against the grip
of beasts and other men –
it made sense, then.

the markings on his arms,
maps of the harms
that had come to him
inflicted in the dim
light of dusk:
the scratching fingers of branches,
sharp teeth in foaming mouths
pierced his calloused skin.

he was at times felled,
yelled and writhed as his bones
crunched with a sickening sound
against rocky unforgiving ground,
his body turning violent autumn hues
of violets, reds, and blues,
a moazaic of prozaic bruises:
unspoken lifelines.

but he took them in stride,
and wore them with pride,
others dared not deride
him for his life’s pictogram;
the gashes across his sternum
a stern warning that he would
not be felled by the mere scrapes
with which he was draped.

this man echoes in us all:
his falls, his foes, the throes
of his pains lain somehow
end to end in amino acids
and evinced in our desire
to adorn our own skin in hued
tribute to his rudely
shortened life.

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