Quietly the primal dream
asserts its laws; all round the town
eyes of shell, tin, coral, gleam;
masks, figures, grimace gape and frown;
sly, lecherous, bland, amused or stern,
the children of the earth return.

Two thousand years of guilt have spread
their wordy labyrinthine creed:
the son-god rising from the dead,
the father god that watched him bleed,
the ghost whose tongues inspire and burn.
Now children of the earth return.

Each gallery mounts them on display
and little printed cards spell out
Ashanti, Papua, Malay,
Yoruba, Thai; though we may scout
beliefs our histories did not earn,
the children of the earth return.

Let us pretend it's mainly trade
that brings them here, no mystery.
Their tribal elders were well paid
for deities and history
and need no untoward concern
as children of the earth return.

They're unsophisticated, crude,
the women steatopygous,
the men hard-eyed, long-membered, lewd,
the gods bizarre, indecorous.
What makes me feel I must discern
why children of the earth return,

and with such confident ap[lomb?
I touch with cautious reverence
and feel dark inner pulses drum
and pierce a long forgotten sense
with wisdoms I have yet to learn.
The children of the earth return.

by Hannah Smith

Other poems of SMITH (15)

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