Past Tense

This poem won Second place in the 2015 2-Day Poem Contest

Long before still images gathered into reels, 

faked and raked movement across canvas screens,

before our minds grew magnetic, and we unfurled

how the unseen tether held Earth to its satellite,

and polished silver appliances skated from 

open-mouthed factories, and oven-baked bricks 

mirrored unshaven bi-pedal ambition, 

our cave-dwelling stencil footprint grazed along 

wildfire-lit walls, grew into centuries blossomed 

with hieroglyphs where meru log boats and reed 

ships oiled with bronzed-back oarsmen plied 

aged seas in half, reaching Tyre and other 

hoary-named lapsed lands flung to the known-world’s 

ends, and returned soaking with Nile sun, cattle,

wares, and slaves. Long before we chipped sandstone 

for spearheads on this winged orb where there is a 

place on the page for everyone to create their own hue,

our hands reached where stone sparked

the ground’s thermal layers, and lumps 

of pyrite ignited bullets through wheellock

pistols and the brass brazzle luster of cocked guns

sang with firecracker staccato, and well before 

the butcher’s stick knife turned pig to ham 

and we dried crystalline stinging sea salt to preserve, 

pickle, cure, and smoke-hang animal flesh, before 

the anthology of constellations and running down 

savannah prey, there was a terrene syllable which 

grabbed the first carved domino, and firmed it in place. 

Published online July 01 2015.

This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.