She looked up inside the skull,
light seeping through thin brown
marrow making umber veins
that reminded her of the back
of her mother’s knees.
Australopithecus, her little hands
plastered to the glass. Knuckles
knocked to smudge display cases, her
father chewed the syllables for her, uh-fah-ren-sis.
Say it with me.
He lifted her slight body
limbs locked around his neck.
You almost did it. He wasn’t
a liar, not like most
giants. He used big words
drew out the letters in
her soup. Each meal a different
word: Inguinal, Umbilicus, Iliac. She listened
to his voice drone, spoon spinning
Next, look here. We look
outside the bones. Anticipation
shook her, shrunken figures reaching
out with brown muffed hands.
It was nothing like her mother.
He took her to the bodies, displayed
figures marked Orrorin tugenensis,
Ardipithecus ramidus, Paranthropus robustus,
fabricated skin and carpet hair, she touched
her forehead to the top of their skull.
So much hair, she tangled her fists
in brown patches. It wasn’t
all there, clay flashes of
flesh, she pinched her own
pinkness looking for a match.
We don’t have it all anymore, hands
deep in her curls, funny how it’s knots
on our head. She knew the other places. Secreted
parts of herself she knew not to
touch. Some names she memorized
myometrium, exocervix, ectopic—this
looked nothing like her pictures.
There was his wide gap grinning we all
come from somewhere. But it wasn’t here,
but he wasn’t a liar, but her mother’s knees,
her mother’s velveted skin, her
mother’s fat curls, her mother’s
hot breath, her mother’s skull
he promised it’d be like
her mother’s face.
But it wasn’t. Australopithecus,
small and furry and brown
and not like her mother, not
like any mother. She pulled
I want to go home.