“Descent of Man”, a New Poem by Timothy Steele

The award-winning poet penned this new piece about evolution

Swiping her fare card through the turnstile’s reader,
She’s conscious of the debts she owes her thumbs.
An arrow points to some steep stairs that lead her
Down to the platform as a 6 train comes.
Adroit in ways her forebears couldn’t presage,
She finds a pole to grip and place to stand,
And, smartphone in her palm, she taps a message
With the nimblest of the digits of the hand.

Even as the recorded voice advises
The packed car, Stand clear of the closing doors,
Latecomers wedge aboard. Though none capsizes,
The jolt with which the train starts underscores
The need for balance in a world of perils,
The benefits of thinking on one’s feet,
Whether one hunts and gathers or one barrels
From 68th to 42nd Street.

Just prior to arrival in Grand Central,
The otherwise straightforward subway curves.
She gets off. At the terminal’s street level,
Her browsing through the market concourse serves
To indicate her species’ brains and power.
She’s King Kong’s cousin when she stops to cull
Bananas; holding a head of cauliflower,
She’s Hamlet contemplating Yorick’s skull.

It’s strange, she muses, that through choice or passion
She may in time have offspring and confer
Her traits on them and, in her own small fashion,
Advance the process that’s created her.
But even as this thought evolves, she checks it:
She’s meeting friends near Bryant Park for drinks.
She takes the marble passage toward the exit,
Near which a father with a toddler sinks

To one knee, mindful of the evening’s weather,
And zips up the boy’s parka, hoods his head,
Then pinches the snap fasteners together.
Outside, she wishes she’d inherited—
The wind is icy—genes from hockey players.
Still, she’s warm-booted, scarfed, and stocking-capped,
And, underneath her coat, she’s dressed in layers.
Whatever the night offers, she’ll adapt.