Prosper Barter

Ancient History Lesson

First, there were floods

Lots of them, and they always wrecked the crops.

Everyone starved.


Then there was irrigation. And fighting

over water. And battles.

Everyone was slain.


Later, there was religion. Thousands of gods,

then one god (whose?) then more battles. Everyone

was converted or slain.


After long periods of nothing happening—

(except the usual—marriage, children, death from disease,

parties and music, drawing and inspiration, the rustle of wheat)


suddenly war would break out.

This goes on for 5,000 years.


Everyone hated the others for no reason

or every reason we know: the crops, the rights,

the look on his face, don’t look at my daughter that way.


And what will we be remembered for?

Airplanes and electricity? Voting?

Or more battles where everyone was slain. Followed by

long periods where nothing much happened.



“Ancient History Lesson” first appeared in Sonora Review, issue 43.