Poem of the Week | November 21, 2016

This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by Owen McLeod. McLeod’s poems appear or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including New England Review, Field, Yale Review, The Minnesota Review, Willow Springs, Sugar House Review, Passages North, and others. He is a studio potter and an associate professor of philosophy at Lafayette College. He lives and works in eastern Pennsylvania. His website is www.owenmcleodpoetry.com.
Author’s note:

Over time, a child’s drawings of people evolve from random marks to spiky blobs, from stick figures to more or less human forms. Recently, I was struck by the thought that if a set of pictures like this were arranged from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, the series could be interpreted as a visual, mythical, and definitely surreal history of the evolution of human beings. And thus this poem was born. It uses the conceit just described as a device for delighting in, yet questioning, the distinctions between reality and appearance, sacred and profane, transcendent and immanent, the extraordinary and the quotidian.


A Brief History of the Universe


At first, against an empty field, we appeared as random marks.


Gradually we became blobs, grew hair, eyes, and spidery legs.


We discovered clothes: triangles for women, rectangles for men.


Our bodies and lives became more complex. We found homes,


pets, and automobiles, posed stiffly under a spiked yellow sun.


Trees evolved from lollipops to trunks with crowns of limbs.


When clouds rolled in, precipitation fell in the form of Morse code:


rain the dashes, snow the dots. Snowmen were three-circle stacks.


No matter the weather, the sky was home to exactly three birds.


One evening, we found the world enclosed by a big silver circle.


We asked our daughter what it meant. She said that it was God,


then requested mac and cheese, the kind with a packet of powder


in the box. We ate it together at the kitchen table—milk in her cup,


cheap wine for us, the cosmos dangling from a magnet on the fridge.