Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Midterm Evaluations

In the introductory
Class that evening, everyone

Hunkered over their midterm
Examinations, scribbling
Everything they could manage.

The anthropologist watched,
Proctoring them, but thinking
What a strange situation

This was, both in longer-term
Evolutionary scales
And short-term cultural shifts.

Here they were, thirty primates
Of the same species, not one
Of them closely related,

In an artificial cave,
Under the fluorescent lights,
In intense competition,

Not so much with each other,
As with an elaborate,
Invisible selection

System, none of them fighting.
Moreover, their ancestors
A few generations back,

And all the generations
Before that, would be startled,
Thrown into consternation

At the sight of them, unmarried
Men and women together,
Out in public, after dark,

Almost all dressed in trousers,
Mostly blue jeans, similar
Shirts and sweaters, concealing

To their necks, wrists, and ankles
But dyed in intense colors—
Scarlets, golds, greens, and so forth—

With large lettering on them,
Many also wearing caps.
Where is the light coming from?

What materials are these?
Why is the whole room humming,
Like a tabby, to itself?

Lost in reveries like these,
Considering the weirdness
Of what’s called a century,

The instructor was startled
By the first completed test
Slapped on the laminate desk.

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