This Cold Ache

for Dave and Mark Bonta

This cold ache, this longing
to belong — orangutans have
already begun to step into
our filthy shoes, have bred
until their habitat is stressed;
recently, two of them turned
against another, ganged up

and beat and killed her, our
first occasion of witnessing
their females commit murder,
so now we aren’t unique in
this respect, the earth does
not need us to manifest this
option, does not need us as

a repository for the bloody-
minded string of X-genes. Our
services may no longer be
required. This cold ache, this
longing to belong — and now,
your brother and another well-
versed in Australian aboriginal
territory and ceremony have

unraveled the old Prometheus
myth — we’d thought that fire
was ours uniquely, a secret
cleverly hidden in a stalk of
fennel, stolen from the gods.
But fifteen observations of
brown falcons and black kites

lifting and relocating burning
twigs of brush to other places
to smoke out their prey —
and this behavior may well
predate our own successes
with such flames, our own
discovery of the handiness

of lightning strikes, the trial
and errors with which we
learned to wrap the embers
from a smoldering tree up in
shag-bark and green leaves,
carry them to where they’d
be useful in preparing food.

So we are not unique in this
thing either, and may not have
even been the first; the gods
from which we stole that fire
may well have been birds;
clearly, the earth does not
need us to manifest this option,

does not need our bodies to
preserve the DNA of pyro-
mania. Our services may no
longer be required. This cold
ache, this longing to belong —
and now —


Inspired by/in response to “February idyll” by Dave Bonta, and two articles: “The Dark Side of the Red Ape” and “Crafty Australian birds may be resorting to arson to smoke out their prey.”

2 Comments


  1. Beautiful as always Laura–maybe we are not as unique or as necessary as we might think, for both good and bad. With Copernicus we had to see ourselves as peripheral to the greater universe, and maybe now we must learn we are not the center nor the crown of creation even in our small corner of a world–have no monopoly on murder, or fire, or tool making, or intelligence. Wonder if we will be able to outgrow our narcissistic infancy and find our true place??

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