Oh, Leanderthal Lady, so lovingly buried, arms crossed, knees drawn up
As if just resting in the hard, compacted soil now known as El Paso, there
Where the ancient people laid her to rest perhaps thirteen centuries ago.
You do the math. You think: how civilized, her grinding stone
Accompanying her into the long sleep, the shark’s tooth that once adorned her neck.
She was found in the building of a highway just 36 years ago, a natural death.
Texas: Your history of dinosaurs and giant armadillos, the ancients like Leanne,
Their rock art and pottery, their very bones, long forgotten as the Europeans
Came to conquer you: the Spaniards and the French, and the naming of a place called
Mexico, a blink of time in a history of forgetting your inconvenient truths:
How there is always someone who was there before you
Or you would not have been at all
Gilroy, place of pueblos and dispossessed Mexicans
El Paso: part of Mexico until Sam Houston’s boys defeated 1800 in 18 minutes
Dayton: an ancient Indian village where a giant sundial told the people’s story
Perhaps we are the gnomon, casting our shadow on the dial
For in one week, this equation:
One minute you are celebrating the ancient garlic: source of food, medicine, magic
One minute you are spending your pennies in the billionaires’ megastore
One minute you are sharing a drink at Ned Peppers.
Then you count your weekly tally, America, your equation of time and loss:
At least 32 dead, 67 wounded in three once-holy places alone.
We are so civilized.
Yvonne Daley is a career journalist who returned to poetry for sanity in these dark times. She lives in Vermont, still a sane place.
Photograph courtesy of Sandi Bachom from protests in New York City on 4 August 2019.