History as a Series of Repeated Gestures

Studies show that seeing their own 
mirror images gives creatures 

an increased ability to develop social 
responses—Parrots and fighting fish, 

sea lions and crayfish placed in tanks 
whose outer walls are wrapped  

in a reflective lining are
observed to rear up more, curl 

their tails, walk clockwise or counter-
clockwise because they see an image 

of something that resembles them
going through those motions. 

It's the reason we suddenly have
the urge to yawn after seeing 

someone scrunch their eyes while
opening their mouth; why hearing 

the sound of retching from a nearby 
bathroom stall might incite the need

to gag. With the onset of the pandemic,
handshakes and high fives gave way

to fist or elbow bumps. And before that,
the inside of the elbow became preferred

cushion for a sneeze. History is a long,
cobbled street lined with grey buildings:

at every window, a cat or a child or a man 
or woman has their faces pressed to the glass, 

waiting to see who will wave, who will raise 
or lower a basket filled with bread and water; 

who will put their thumbs and fingertips 
together in the shape of a heart; who 

will point an imaginary gun at the head, who 
will duck under the sill or throw up their hands.



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