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Appetite for the Divine

Saint Paul, 18 January 2006

Long ago
In defiance of mortality
One of us began to bury our dead
Limb-by-limb to earthen blankets
Where shovels once sideswiped supple roots

Disease less rampant
No sun-bleached teeth protruding
Absent from desiccated skulls
An appetite for the divine ensued
When surviving clans prepared to reunite

Steadfast in spring
We're oddly driven to sow seeds
To run our hands across stone walls
That converge to the only horizon we’ve known
Where darkness cedes to annual morning glories

As autumn falls
We succumb to grotesque ritual
Grieve dumbfounded at ceremonial mounds
Simpering in chorus before platted bread-loaves
Where petal-less poppies once split their pods

Finally come winter
Instinct draws us to feckless ruins
Bounding stair treads trodden and worn
Resigning to what’s left of the refectory
Where hot meals once were served

This poem considers the possibility that natural selection selected humans
predisposed to receptiveness to the concept of the afterlife (or, for that
matter, predisposed to receptiveness to a concept of the supernatural that
defies logic or lacks credible empirical evidence). One of our antecedents
might have buried a companion to prepare that companion for what was believed
to be the afterlife. Unbeknownst to subsequent followers of this ritual was that
burying decaying bodies improved sanitary conditions thereby increasing the
survival rate of its practitioners.