Our Case by Mara Lemanis

Our Case by Mara Lemanis


Our Case


What is the case, we asked.

Has the world shown cause

to make a case for us…

Rocking day and night

in its watery cradle

it belched up rocks,

cracked gullies in our floors,

pulverized atomic numbers

to blow us out of the way;

Seas roiled our shores,

soaked through valleys,

leaving an alluvial plain

for rice or wheat or barley

if we had nerve enough and time

to make a scythe, a plough, a ditch;


We threshed and harvested,

we lived from crop to crop

or roamed with herds

to graze on random grains

as the world, gorged

pole to pole,

rocked day and night

around its sunny path,

and showed no cause

to make a case for us;

We caught a vapor trail,

A hint of some design

through the motley mirror

of each other’s rounds

or old dependencies

of thirst and hunger

allayed by goats who,

guileless, laid our table

when we eyed more than milk;

When what we wanted was a capstone

to seal temporal arts in immutable law.


We found a common cause

Inventing chisels, trowels, mallets

erecting walls, wells, store houses,

Temples to make a home for those

Who would protect us, write

our name to wake the stars,

build secret vaults above

the rock that carried us

inside its heedless cradle;

We clocked our days

by the painted totems of the kin

who passed before us

leaching their bones to ripen our soil;

They rose up in our dreams,

Unearthly vistas blotting out

the sights we understood;

They showed us omens we read

through sacraments of animal blood--

those were like ingrained science for us;

We crowned them in our temples

and bowed to hear them tell

us what they saw

for they were guardians

of the secret alchemy

that made our numbers count

against the apathy of the world.


Invaders broke our walls,

plundered what we stored,

ripped flesh, smashed temples;

We fell upon the charred, torn ground,

the water surfing with our dead,

and beseeched the guardians

whose names we held aloft—

Marduke, Anu, Ra, Inanna,

whom later we called

Brahma, Yahweh, Allah, Christus;

They availed us all in kind—

we cried out: You lied,

You warped our trust,

Did we not hear, did we not see

Your arcane signs, or did we botch

your omens with our mental plaque…?

We threw our sorrow at the ruins

and in the grim night, inside

the cradle rocking home its dead,

we begged what was our cause,

what was the case for us.

And the earth beneath us buckled,

the atomic table burst,

and obscure fragments—

scabs from totems,

temple shards--rushed in

and cradled us in infinite communion.


--Mara Lemanis


Images: 1) Diego Rivera-Man at the Crossroads-l640, 2) Dunes and Lagoons in Brazil