This is where we went wrong:
that first day, eons back, after humans
draped in hair or animal skins
with sharp yellow teeth and
filthy fingernails, at last
found a plant they could eat
and wondered what lay beneath it.
If under the ground, there might be
a whole primordial supermarket
of edible roots and berries
just waiting to be discovered. So
they dug with those same hands
that archeologists now tell us
made tools and swung from branches,
turning up inch after inch
of rich black earth, insignificant
insects, the tendrils of the plant’s
roots reaching delicately downward,
always down, towards something else.
Shoulder to shoulder, grunting as
they turned up great earthy fistfuls,
all through the night until day broke
and they beheld the chasm they’d made.
At the bottom of the pit, that place
from which all roots begin, just
a hard plain bed of rock. Not edible,
not watery, not soft like a woman
or gold like the sun, but a plate of stones
ancient as that time before time
when the rigid Precambrian crust
exhaled fumes for an atmosphere,
pushing up nutrients from its
petrified breast. There was a lesson here
but they were hungry. Their hands
were bleeding. Their groins
wanted attention. So they climbed out
to work on spears and temples,
forgetting that pit and how
for one odd moment,
the dark was almost familiar.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Ink Pot.
Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy series and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, Brevity, Tupelo Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many other journals. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit https://www.troublewithhammers.com.