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Clade Song 13

The Priestess of Ishtar Addresses the Wild Man Enkidu a Year After She Tamed Him According to Divine Command

A Barbary ape is not an ape,
but a tail-less monkey, and, yes,
there is a difference. To understand

the depth of the human crisis, you’d have
needed ninety-seven lifetimes—the successive
generations it took for the Mediterranean

to dry up. Back then, gigantic beasts
crossed the ocean floor, their hooves crushing
salt. Once, theirs was good life, too.

Also true: the path of least resistance was
always the universe. It meant surface
tension. It meant you. By default,

you were as natural as cannibals,
or drowning. On your hairy skin, the sun
did not burn. I know you liked to run.

But now—in flames on the bier, shadowed
by the city’s bronze plazas and gates—
let’s pretend you were never meant to be

given a soul, to find yourself some gods’
spoiled morsel. Pretend it is the same
when they bless and curse the animals.






M. Cynthia Cheung is a physician whose writing can be found in The Baltimore Review, RHINO, Salamander, SWWIMTupelo Quarterly and others. She serves as a judge for Baylor College of Medicine’s annual Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards. Find out more at