The Genomics of Intimacy

by Jeffrey Greene Issue: Spring/Summer 2020

After Hugo Rheinhold’s Affe mit Schädel

An ape holds a human skull
and contemplates it
face to face like Hamlet
absorbed in his 
existential moment.
Hardly 12 inches tall,
cast in bronze, 
the ape sits on a stack of books,
one spine inscribed “Darwin,”
who noticed in apes
the human resemblances. 
Now we know how 
some of us sprouted from Africa, 
the migrations branching 
like a tree—
north, east, and west.
In the branching, 
some encountered small bands 
of Neanderthals.
Others found Denisovans.
Who’s to judge 
what they did,
mother or father,
their descent?
As sheer urge would have it,
they live on,
genetic variants,
carrying the most intimate 
fruit of knowledge.



Jeffrey Greene

Jeffrey Greene has published five collections of poetry and a book of mixed genre writing with artist Ralph Petty.  He is the author of the memoir French Spirits and three personalized nature books, a fourth appearing in 2021. His writing has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and Rinehart Fund, and he was a winner of the Samuel French Morse Prize, the Randall Jarrell Award, and the "Discovery"/ The Nation Award.  His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The Nation, Ploughshares, and Agni, among many anthologies.  He teaches for the Cedar Crest Pan-European MFA Program.