by John J. Brugaletta

Since the days of homo habilis, wherever we go,
the gerenuks, pronghorns, arctic foxes and agoutis
run away from us, rarely trusting us but skittishly.
We called them sauvage or deor, meaning they were
unruly in behavior, uncouth in appearance, and barbar.

Our reaction was like that of any imperialist:
to make them more like us, teach them to help us
hunt and to guard our homes, to eat the mice and rats
that ate our grains, to carry us more swiftly over land.

The horse agreed, but the zebra, so similar, refused.
The cat grudgingly stayed in the neighborhood.

And we, like gods, took these few converts as friends.
Our half-wild children adopted them as companions.
We felt we had overcome whatever we had done
to alienate those other beings, stroking their fur,
treasuring the times they showed love or dependence.

But our pleasure in taming the wild often was broken,
as when our dogs, stunted in odd forms of puppyhood,
could not match the ferocity of their independent kin,
were killed, leaving us unprotected and grieving.

It has been an odd history, we taking a path that seemed
inevitable, fated almost, and possibly getting it so wrong
that we might be to blame for having assumed nature
was there for us to reshape, like rouge on a fine face.

But always there is the possibility that we ourselves were
part of the grand scheme of evolution, winkling out
the buried DNA in certain species, making them
not only our friends, but friends of one another.