11 November 2009

Through a glass

Perhaps it is objectively true that only poetry can talk of birth and origin. Because true poetry invokes the whole of language (it breathes with everything it has not said), just as the origin invokes the whole of life, the whole of Being.

The mother orangutan has come back, this time with her baby. She is sitting right up against the glass. The children in the audience have come to watch her. Suddenly, I think of a Madonna and Child by Cosimo Tura. I'm not indulging in sentimental confusion. I haven't forgotten I'm talking about apes any more than I've forgotten I'm watching a theatre. The more one emphasizes the millions of years, the more extraordinary the expressive gestures become. Arms, fingers, eyes, always eyes...A certain way of being protective, a certain gentleness -- if one could feel the fingers on one's neck one would say a certain tenderness -- which has endured for five million years.[1]
-- from Ape Theatre by John Berger (1990).


[1] More likely, the last common ancestor of orangutans and humans lived about 13 million years ago.

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