The Human

The Human
August 23, 2019 Donnelly Timothy

The Human


In the interim I will find a way to feel at home with the animal
Aristotle in his Politics says nature made for politics


because alone among animals it enjoys the gift of speech.
Other animals have a voice to indicate what is pleasant,


what painful, and to relay it to each other, but true speech,
says Aristotle, takes things further, and is intended to make clear


what is beneficial, what harmful, what is good or bad,
and this among animals is peculiar to the human, who alone


enjoys perception of the just, which nature would never
provide without cause, he says, but does so that they might live


collectively, in communities, and not like those of the goat,
which seeks only what gives pleasure, and wanders


endlessly to avoid pain, but in settlements, vast cities
it takes politics to build, an effort extended across centuries


like bridges over waterways, their lengths reflected in the
flowing underneath them and up glass faces of towers the sun


illuminates with such intensity it feels like intention—
the will of what is to go on, to take things further, to adapt


parts of the body intended for breathing into a means to
force air into sounds, sounds into words, words into prayers of


thanks to the sun. And when I close my eyes to brace against
the late imperial effects of it, I feel a forebear step forward


from a cave in thought, its arms extended as if to take part
bodily in the beauty of what we call sky, and through some new


distortion in the throat, indicates what the many, still situated
in dark behind us, come one by one to tremble at the mouth to see.

**”The Human” originally appeared in Diode.

Timothy Donnelly’s most recent book of poetry is The Problem of the Many. He teaches at the Columbia University School of the Arts.