from “In Mysteria” (a fragment)

File:Hippies and the Kombi Van (6990033260).jpgOn a mountainside in North Carolina,

two apes, genus Homo,

species sapiens and ignorans,

sit on the bank of a lake at dawn.


They wear flip flops and smudges of last night’s body paint.

They drink reconstituted limeade from Nalgene bottles.

They watch mists play above the water’s surface.


Vapors rise, swirl, dance toward one another, separate, combine again,

like smoke from a pipe,

like Djinn in the desert.


One ape sees elemental spirits.

The other sees water molecules moving across a heat differential.

Truth be told, these apes are both a bit stoned.

She is still feeling the effects of the Psilocybe semilanceata,

but he is totally blinkered on 700 years of scientistic impudence

born of figuring out how to make electronic can-openers,

as if everything—the universe, other people—were a can.


Not since Lucifer have the seven heavens seen such hubris.


He’s impatient to go for a swim.

He has things to be and people to do.


This difference in the apes’ theologies has her rethinking

the bonobo handshake they did together the night before,

that left them happily heavy in one another’s arms

like twin fetuses in a womb.


If you don’t get anything else out of this class,

at least you can carry away this practical tip:

Theological disputation before breakfast can ruin your sex life.


Art: Hippies and the Kombi Van. Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia [CC BY 2.0 (

For more poems by Bob Shepherd (and for essays on the reading and writing of poetry, go here: