Seven facts about the ancestors

They were short. They could squat
on their haunches for hours.
They knew the right times for things.
They remembered what they heard
in a way that we who have been trained
by the measured tread of text cannot.
They had bad teeth, but better than
the farmers who followed them.
They squinted a lot.
They knew every conceivable grief
except for the small, dull kind
that accompanies the purchase
of some interchangeable part.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. I love this, dave. It’s something I think about often, and is probably the subtext of everything I think is important.

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  2. Very nice.

    These days I feel a pang of grief at almost all purchases, except those of food. As though by buying the item I have no choice but to be counted as buying its manufacturer’s message about how much happier I’ll be now.

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  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Jarrett – I guess there’s that, too. I had written “grief of broken modules” in my notebook, but it seemed to me that the grief started much earlier, when we buy an item knowing that it will break and have to be thrown away, and that its manufacture was in all likelihood unaccompanied by anything resembling joy or pleasure.

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  4. Echos somewhat the feeling I got reading Lucas’s (pomes on poets) about lost objects:

    ‘each one opening another crack
    in my painted shell of property –
    none washed up, none brought back
    to the beach of life expectancy’

    that these material items we tell ourselves are unimportant actually have more weight with us than we allow.

    I get that grief when chucking out packaging and other rubbish too.

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  5. Wonderful! I like “remembering what they heard”… as we cannot. All seven are great reminders. Thanks, Dave…

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  6. I left a comment, Dave, but it must have got lost. My head is full of ancestors and in specific ways. You have been specific in this poem in ways which strike me as true so that I can almost remember the images as though I experienced them myself. “Squatting on their haunches for hours”, is an experience of which I can’t explain the familiarity.

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  7. Lucy – Yes, but I think the attachments we form to other objects are perhaps healthier. They have more life in them, so our mourning of their eventual decay or brokenness is more heart-felt. I’m not convinced that the love of beautiful things is wrong. It’s commodification, rather than materialism, that offends me.

    Sally – Thanks for the comment – and the link. Much appreciated.

    Joe – I’m sorry your comment got lost. And I’m pleased and a little surprised that something I wrote when I was dead-tired struck you as being so right.

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