How to be Remembered

by Anna Westwig

It is 20,000 BC, though, of course, you,
hardy and paleolithic, do not know it.
And you do not wonder how
to be remembered. You are, I think,
still grappling with phonemes
and the complexity of light on water.

In thousands of years, your DNA,
woven and unraveled countless times in time’s nervous hands,
will emerge in some painter’s deft brush strokes,
and that light will dance in oils yet unknown.

For now, do not think about being remembered;
you can wound the world gently, but,
I suppose, that is the same thing. So,
watch the water shimmer, and kill. Have
no qualms, for the Earth is still an abundance,
and you, before daybreak, a struggling thing.

Find, by the riverbank where your eyes
are blinded by white diamonds in water,
a rich treasure of ochre, cool and thick.

Stick your hand into the clay,
and let it soothe the sun’s anger,
and the bug-bites that in thousands of years,
someone’s mother will coat with aloe vera.

Wander back to your cave,
where you and others have learned to live,
sheltered from the wind and the fire
which you turn upon like a spit in the sky.

Wander back to your cave,
red and curious,
and begin to smear on the rock walls,
a drawing, a sketch that will resemble toddlers’
mindless pastiches in another age. You do not know this.
You do not care. But you are beautiful.
And greater than that, you are kind.
And even greater, you are vicious.
And greatest of all, you begin to paint.

Paint a banteng, balanced on stick-legs.
You have seen them in a green world
amongst the karsts – a word you have not yet invented.
Perhaps you have hunted one with spears and friends –
all words that you are formulating, tangling your
tongue around. One day, we will write
the syllables down and name them graphemes.

Finish it. Continue to create:
hunt and gather and love and give birth –
Finally, before you are erased by the Holocene,
you must sign your name.
You forget. It’s okay

One day, I will write a poem about you.
And we will both live on.