Horse According to Man – a poem by Kate Rauner

lifes Horsetree

Redrawn by Holly Harvey from Bruce J. MacFadden, Fossil Horses. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1992)

Inspired by Stephen Jay Gould’s essay ‘Life’s Little Joke’.

Since eighteen hundred seventy nine and Huxley’s chart illustrious,

The story of evolving horse has been passed down to all of us.

Eohippus, Mesohippus, Protohippus, Equus:

Each with lesser toes and larger teeth for grass ubiquitous.

Neat and tidy, moving up, a story to betray

From primitive to modern, how progress is conveyed.

But Equus lingers only as a remnant of the way

Its vibrant bush of species has dwindled till today.

Merrychipus, Hypohippus: three-toed feet sublime.

Pliohippus’ single toe did not evict their kind.

Four million years or more they galloped happily through time:

Evolution as vivacious tree, not ladder life must climb.

There is another creature, modern remnant of abundance,

Lone surviving species of diversity it showed once,

Now tries to draw life’s journey with a thumb in every fist,

And draws a ladder reaching only to our own hubris.

lifes little joke

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