“When the Humans Walked the Earth” by Harsha Pattnaik

Harsha Pattnaik (age 15)


we wrapped ourselves in blankets of lost warmth, homes
that were never our own, we filled our lungs
with someone else’s share, we stole
our stomach’s satisfaction

we heard the cries of an empty crib, the
green shade of a mother’s love left forlorn-
midst the forests, yet we held
the child with cold indifference, while
the salty waves shrivelled our hearts

someday it won’t be enough to pulse our borrowed blood

we breathed out carbon clouds, then
swathed ourselves with it, the splatters of
its effluence crept into our nostrils, the heat ensnared by it
lapped at our skin, singed our fabricated flesh;
emblazoned it with our disappearing shores

melting snow rose to our necks, our eyes were fixed at towering, blinking glass cases

we clawed at our mother’s womb, tore
her lush robes to pieces, crushed her frail, cradling lap
we sucked her arteries dry, we poisoned her veins with our venom

we forgot we thrived on her milk, we forgot we were kneaded out of her flesh

we never listened to what we didn’t understand
little heartbeats couldn’t reach our ears, we trampled
on our dwindling souls and let our fangs pierce ourselves

we stood alone in glory, distant cries
of an unborn child; the edge of the cliff
nothing more to achieve, we were the finest of them all

light burns the brightest before it dies
and these shadows are our only remains

from 2016 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Harsha Pattnaik: “English is not my native language, but I find it much closer to my heart. Mankind has not come up with ways to describe every little thing, I feel, but poetry comes quite close. There are certain things in the world and perhaps beyond it that cannot be expressed in anything less than poetry. I simply write poetry because when I’m bubbling with feelings that I cannot express, poetry provides me with a channel to break my dams and let my words flow in a beautiful catastrophe.”

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