Mathias Svalina

Chapter Seven of Prehistoric America: A History
The Great American Play

The scientists had said “America is a land of constant change.” And now a great many people were really beginning to believe it. How could they help themselves? Why were there newspapers & magazines? Why did the people of prehistoric America wake up each morning owning a new animal that no one had ever heard of?

The people of prehistoric America got the feeling every morning that they were watching a great play. This is because every morning the animals that no one had ever heard of woke up early & wrote & produced great plays. The plays told the history of prehistoric America, which was very, very old. The creatures were small as animals go, but according to the critics they were gifted.

The scientists said there was something mysterious about the way the plays started. The scientists hated mysteries & so they blamed the start of the plays on the International Workers Union. The scientists had the members of the IWU rounded up & given tattoos of prehistoric America’s flag on their foreheads.


Because the people of prehistoric America insisted on believing the scientists when the scientists said “America is a land of constant change” the scientists had the phrase “America is a land of constant change” trademarked. There was, however, a typo & the scientist accidentally trademarked the phrase “America is a large mass of cells or an organ that removes substances from the bloodstream & excretes them, or secretes them back into the blood in concentrated or altered form with a specific political purpose.”

The scientists however knew that this was not the case. Therefore they founded prehistoric America. This country was geographically the same as America but existed before the enforcement of trademarks.


In honor of the founding of prehistoric America the scientists invented fishes, definitely fishes. Definitely fishes were a success. A thousand different kinds of definitely fishes roamed the shallow seas of prehistoric America. They swam around & ate what they could get & laid eggs & sued one another. It was their act of the play, their age—the Age of Definitely Fishes. They had skeletons & they had laws.

The earliest definitely fishes didn’t feel that skeletons & laws were protection enough. It would never do to leave their muscles where other definitely fishes could bite into them. Who could have foreseen the breaking out of war in every library?

The definitely fishes hired a team of marketers who designed coats of horny armor. The armor was as clumsy as the armor worn by knights. Some definitely fishes sat on their couches all day watching TV shows on DVD & not answering their cellphones. The armored definitely fishes lay low on the bottom of the shallow sea that covered northern Ohio. The lay & waited. Their open jaws were terrifying. They only had one tooth each, but that tooth was deadly. Their mouths were so wide that they had little TVs inside them so that their teeth & tongues could watch TV. They could even cut a shark in half.

The animals that no one had ever heard of wrote this all down & then performed it for the audience. That’s how it was in prehistoric America. It was litigious. And for a hundred million years the climate was just as the plants liked it.

Mathias Svalina is the author of Destruction Myth, forthcoming from the CSU Poetry Center. He is coeditor of Octopus Magazine & the small press Octopus Books. He currently lives in Denver.

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