Talking About Evolution (2 poems)

Blue sunset 2


Watching the Knowledge Network

The earnest English anthropologist
is talking about evolution.
He shows a film of long-haired men
digging on the shores of a lava lake in Africa.
Later, one of them appears wearing a big collar,
a big tie and bushy sideburns.
He has a collection of bones
which he assembles into a skeleton.
A debate follows
about the significance of tools
in our leap from ape to man.

On the coffee table is a copy of “The Little Red Hen”
as retold by Maria M. Southgate M.A. B.Com.
I make an astonishing discovery.
On page thirty-six, the little red hen
is cutting her field of wheat
with a very sharp knife,
and immediately I think:
those idiots, those bell-bottomed fools
as the clamber over each other
into our bollock-naked past
they have completely over-looked the tool-wielding fowl.
All the degrees in the world,
and they miss something so barn-door obvious
I found the above poem today in a box in my basement, while doing a pandemic purge. It was probably written in the late eighties. The odd thing is I was trying to figure out how to respond to Brendan’s prompt over at earthweal, in which he asks us to write about ”evolution” and this poem turns up out of nowhere. (There was a rejection note from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin of Cyphers magazine, saying she liked it but it was too much of “a one idea poem”.)

In the same box, I found another evolution related poem, which again I had completely forgotten about. I had to ask myself, have I actually evolved as a writer since then……and, you know, I’m not sure…..there is still that tendency to be facetious….talking of facetious, here’s the other poem..


There was a young lady from Orilla
who fell in love with a gorilla
in Toronto, at the zoo.

She could not stay with him
or have her way with him,
she did not know what to do.

Then the government
gave her a grant
to build a halfway home,

a micro-climate
for the primate,
a keeper out on loan.

With visiting rights
and hot jungle nights
all her problems were solved.

Until one day
I’m sorry to say
the goddamn gorilla evolved.

13 thoughts on “Talking About Evolution (2 poems)

  1. Sherry Marr

    LOL. I always enjoy your wry perspective, Jim. Interestingly, I watched the documentary Jane last week, which has footage of her as a young woman among the chimps – where she discovered they improvised a tool to help them eat – they took a reed and did something to it to make it work better, stuck into holes, and brought it out covered with bugs, which they then ate. Since they know nothjing of oil, money, greed and capitalism, perhaps they will evolve faster than we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sarahsouthwest

    I think you’ve evolved as a writer. I mean, you’re still facetious, but I think there’s more bubbling underneath in your recent stuff. Both of these are great, though, made me smile.

    Corvids use tools.
    I mean, they’re not smelting steel or anything like that, but they are definitely smarter than chickens. The parallel evolution of intelligence is really interesting. Octopus would rule the world if they had a longer lifespan.


  3. Brendan

    Thanks for rummaging out these relics — happy to see someone else has been digging in this dirt for a while. I’m not sure anymore that evolution is the point — not with what resulted in homo sapiens — and the markers of evolved sapience are proving ridiculously provisional. We’re not doing all that much more than what we were up to in the caverns of Lascaux and Chauvet. I’m not sure poems can be said to evolve, either–they must certainly change, a la Stevens–the craft may become more practiced, but there’s always a wall to bonk beyond which the poems cannot go. Seems like we get to a point when the de-evolving is all. I guess. Thanks for joining in. – Brendan


  4. kim881

    I love the wry humour in both poems, Jim, the tool-wielding fowl made me chuckle, and the gorilla poem made me think of King Kong rather than Dian Fossey – I read her book over and over when it first came out. I’m glad you looked in the box.

    Liked by 2 people


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