audio: Paradox
audio of Beth Paulson's poem, Paradox

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Beth Paulson



      Among animals who avoid danger
      humans do not rank first,
      we who in the Middle Ages killed

      twelve percent of our earthly population,
      who teach our young to look
      both ways, avoid dark narrow alleys

      and open spaces, shelter in place.
      Long ago we painted on cave walls
      the tusked mammoth, quick horse,

      identified ourselves among them—
      bones, sinew, hide, hair.
      Now wary of crowded places

      as they feared dusk on the savanna,
      we are still kin to the antelope
      on the plain we hunt no longer,

      wolf at the fence line, child
      in the bus lane. We who know
      too well the risk of fists,

      fear knives, bullets, deadly force
      tight-lock our hearts and doors.
      Keep a Glock in the drawer.

      We evolved to avoid the hurt,
      the foot caught in the iron trap, yet
      bomb city streets, shoot high-powered

      guns in churches, concerts, schools,
      strange predation biologists puzzle,
      murderous and exceptional.

Able Muse Write Prize for Poetry, 2019 ▪ Finalist