Either They Were Human

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audio of Katharine Coles's poem, Either They Were Human

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Katharine Coles

Either They Were Human

 

      Or they were not. Like us,
      They wanted shelter.
      Like us, they painted their walls
      Once they had time to think of ornament, once

      They wanted shelter
      To be more than what it was.
      Once, we had time to think of ornament; once
      We too painted a wall

      To be more than what it was,
      With human figures and figures of beasts.
      We too painted a wall
      As if it could come alive

      With human figures. The figures of beasts—
      Remember how they danced
      As if they could come alive
      There on the stone. There in the flickering light

      Remember how they danced,
      Deer so light on their feet
      There on the stone, there in the flickering light,
      And the big cats wearing spots, chasing

      Deer so light on their feet, so vivid
      In our dreams they kept trading places
      With the big cats. Wearing spots, they chased
      First one then another

      Into our dreams. They kept trading places.
      Like us, they painted their walls,
      First one, then the other.
      They were not like us.