Poems of the Week

Ancestral Choices

by Julia Griffin

“Fossil of Neanderthal child with Down’s syndrome hints at early humans’ compassion
Skull anatomy shows the boy or girl would have been severely disabled, yet survived until the age of six”
The Guardian

They were our infancy. They died quite young:
Their lives were painful, as our own would be
Without the legacies we thrive among.
Their ordinary rate of injury
To us looks catastrophic. We assume,
Between all this and long, non-globose brains,
That they were lacking every kind of room
For finer feelings: for the joys and pains
Of kindly love. A much-disabled child;
To waste on this the strength required to care
For other offspring, fit to face the wild:
The cold, the dark, the hunger of the bear?
It must have been impossible, all told!
And yet this child survived to six years old.