The Mark

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - An­ders Carl­son-wee

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 up­right 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.

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