Somehow it feels like the days are getting short earlier this year. That is actually true: sunset tonight is six minutes earlier here than it is in Eindhoven, where I was at this time last year. (This surprises me – Eindhoven is six degrees further north, and I’d have thought we were close enough to solstice for sunset to be earlier there now. Apparently not.)

Anyway, apparently this is what you get from that feeling, when you combine it with a tradition of writing a light-in-darkness poem for CHanukah and a recent reading of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I’m not very happy with it as a poem, but I am kind of enthralled with the idea of the very first sentient, having a backlog of animal instincts with a new way of wondering “what if things are different this time?”

The First One

It’s said that the first peoples,
terrified the sun was leaving forever,
sent up prayers and sacrifices and lit fires
to lure it back.

I don’t believe it.

Animals follow the rhythm of seasons
and surely our earliest ur-parents
would have inherited that sense of the year
from their animal forebears.

But if sentience is a binary thing,
an on-off switch, then it’s not possible
that a whole tribe emerged at once
into the light of self-awareness.

I see her, that first woman,
the first one to ask questions,
standing unique in a world
where all other life was
animal or vegetable.

Alone,
the first to wonder “what if?”

Waiting for brothers and sisters
and her own children to be born
so they could invent language together

and learn to light fires
and tell stories of where the sun goes
and how it always comes back.