Poetry Sunday: Primitive by Joyce Sutphen

Here's a poem by Joyce Sutphen that reminds us of just how lucky we are to be living today - even with all its problems - rather than in earlier times. And also how others years from now will consider themselves fortunate to be living in their time rather than in our primitive era. All things are indeed relative.

by Joyce Sutphen
How lucky we are that we do not live
in the time of the Plague, when, in three
years a third of Europe’s population––
20 million people––died, and no one
knew the cause. How fortunate we
are to know that it was not the planets
or the wrath of God that caused it
but a tiny bacillus carried by fleas
on the backs of rats coming by ship
from Asia, and how much better it is
to live now, rather than in 1891, when
Thomas Edison filed patents for
the first motion picture camera and viewer,
which operated on a perceptual phenomenon
called “persistence of vision”––a thing that
tricked the brain into thinking it was seeing
seamless movement as the viewer stared
through a tiny peephole and beheld the
gray-and-black image of a horse, galloping.
This is what I think about as I leaf through
the ads for flat-screen TVs in today’s paper
or click a button on my phone to watch
a video posted from a pub in Ireland. Aren’t
we lucky that we have no idea how primitive
our lives will seem one day? How appalling
to realize that our best cures for cancer will
look like a form of torture and that we really
thought we couldn’t be everywhere at once.


  1. I liked the part about cancer cures!

    1. No doubt some day our current treatments for many diseases will seem primitive.

  2. And someone figured out how to stop gun violence, and will know which shooting became the tipping point towards a solution.

    1. Let's do everything we can to hurry that day along.


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