issue 31 poetry

N: Cheating Evolution

by Kathryn Petruccelli

N: Cheating Evolution

Like many letters of the Roman alphabet, N has evolved over 4,000 years such that one might not recognize some of its earlier shapes. It derives from the Phoenicians’ letter nun, meaning fish.

…Humans may also extend their bodies into non-anthropomorphic structures such as wings…During the twilight years of this century, I believe humans will be unrecognizable in morphology and dynamics from what we are today.

– Hugh Herr, MIT professor of biomechatronics, from his 2018 TED Talk “How we’ll become cyborgs and extend human potential”

Once, we were fish, crawling
onto shore, leaving behind

waves, craving only legs.

Now, our shoulder blades
with gossamer,
in the breeze—

Descendants who fly
to the store to grab milk,
who soar hawk-like over the landscape.

No more slamming doors
at the end of arguments,
we register our vexation instead

with the snap of feathers opening.

Or rise perhaps,
above petty differences,
with our mastery of lift and thrust.

Who cares
about the atrophy of our feet
with the views available
from perches
in treetop cafes—

The trading of fin for wing—
a natural progression.

After so many eons of walking, running—
maybe the body is ready for what

comes next. Who wants to move
at the speed of alphabets? Or, worse,

wait another 400 million
years to ascend into the atmosphere?

Still, whenever we fall
from the sky’s blue arms,
we cry—

our sea-salt past

leaking from our eyes.

Kathryn Petruccelli holds an M.A. in teaching English language learners and obsessions over place, language, and the ocean. Her work has appeared in the Southern Review, Tinderbox, SWWIM, Sweet, and others. She teaches writing workshops for adults and teens that strive to develop the emotional literacy needed for a better future.