They told stories walking up
from jungles and dead-dry deserts into the great dense of Europe,
deciduous green, earth beaten by unknown animals.
No doubt, when the night cooled
or the forest stretched into a plainless horizon,
the oldest spoke of desert stars,
tall-grassed distances and low lion growls
rumbling the pitchy calm.
Walking north and more north still, young children learned
of golden expanses
from the old storytellers.
They would beg to hear about crocodile, gorilla.
Though like all kids, they began to don the fashions of
the new place, the only place
they had known—furs instead of loincloths, atlatls replaced hardened
Generations dripped like slow-thawing glaciers;
the story-keepers, long
descended from those whose feet had touched true sand, plaingrass, embellished the old world.
Some described a land of dried streams and no meat, others claimed ponds
so packed with fish they drank all
in one gulp, though no one knew—
their skin losing color,
their hair lightened and straight—
if there was a world before, how long they had walked
or how long the giraffe’s neck,
how far from where stories shaped their mouths and not
the other way around.