Saturday, May 30, 2015

Human and Starfish Honeymoon

"[H]umans and starfish have a common ancestor back in the Ediacaran period, implying that the shared details of their biology – including body cavities, guts, nervous systems and more – must have been present then, too."

Adelaide, Australia, May 2009.
We are waiting for the departure of the Ghan,
Two days' worth of bizarre train ride heading due north,
Through the navel of Alice Springs, up to Darwin.
Huzzah, the dawn of the twenty-first century
Of the revised, Gregorian, Common Era.
Piped-in pop tunes from a computer will soothe us.
We will watch a flat pink sunrise over Outback.
We will invent and play our own version of Scrabble,
Twentieth-century board game, while we wonder
About the joy of a train just for us tourists.
Before the train, we wander, visit museums.

In one, a mudflat turned stone and buried a few
Hundreds of millions of years now stands upended
As a lucite-shrouded wall of puzzling fossils.
Behold, the remains of the Ediacaran,
Before the shales of the Cambrian explosion.
These relatives of the ancestors of starfish
And humans, hence everything betwixt and between,
"Body cavities, guts, nervous systems and more,"
Here compressed and lovingly sketched for the tourists
As a wall-sized accompaniment to the mud,
Make me want to write something clever, a mash note
My ancestors could understand, surreptitious

And tucked into a crevice, the way I once left
My tiny, aphoristic prayer, "life is a force
That feeds on its forms," rolled in a scrap of paper
Like those the devout tuck into the Wailing Wall,
Except that I secreted mine in the buried
Wall of the Roman outpost of Colonium.
But this lucite allows no worshipful protests
Pressed into death, and ancestors can't understand.
A world is one entanglement of lies and love,
A memory that can't know what it's forgotten,
And we get on the train named for camel country
That rattles across the dirt of the kangaroo.

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