We are high mountain people, hunters and artists,
Our view from this base camp is brilliant and clear.
Cold, thin air sweeps the rocky plateau;
You need a strong heart to live here.
Vicuña, guanaco, taruka our prey,
With razor-sharp points, upon them we close,
Then blaze up a fire, take rest, and prepare:
These creatures we skin to the toes.
Out of the ice age and up from the valley,
Testing the limits of body and spirit.
Descendants: a challenge before you stands tall;
Will you adapt, surmount it, or fear it?
Our tale has been weathered; you’re straining to see us
In smudges of smoke, in scattered remains,
Discarded tools, a wide, ancient landscape,
And one piece yet living: our blood in your veins.
Paleoindian settlement of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes, Rademaker et al. (2014) Science
This is one in a series of poems written by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.