She lived, so say geneticists,
a hundred thousand years ago—
or perhaps a quarter million—who knows?
Somewhere in East Africa—Kenya, Tanzania,
maybe not too far from Olduvai?—
she stirred and stretched and somehow knew
in the way women know, the way
her mother before her knew, the way
women have always known when morning
penetrates the veil of cloying night,
that there was a changeling in her belly.
The evening’s passionate coupling
had joined two X chromosomes
to make a womanchild.
How does it feel to stand at future’s edge,
to watch the distant morrow dawn, to bear
in folded moistened darkness of her womb
along the sinuous paths of the double helix
the same X-chromosomal messages
that will make us you or me?
How does it feel to bear the hope—
of every daughter and daughter’s daughter
who will ever henceforth wake,
stir and stretch and struggle through the dark
to believe the morning sun?
How does it feel to know in ways unknown
the serpent must yet disturb the garden,
murky portents bode both pleasure, pain,
blood will not stay safe within the vein
but stain the ground and water hidden roots until
they bear a bitter fruit?
Arms held tight across her breasts
against the morning chill, still shuffling off
night’s anesthesia, she looked around
for a morsel yet uneaten, a bite to fuel her body
and her half-remembered dreams, not hers alone
but of the thousand thousand generations
at that moment wakening inside her, opening
hungering eyes to see the darkness,
hungering mouths to taste the emptiness,
hungering minds to learn the weal and woe
of living in this world. Let us call her
Mitochondrial Eve, mother to all mothers,
our Most Recent Common Ancestor.
We all are one in her.