Friday, May 1, 2020

A Professor of Evolution Places Small Faith in Retirement

No Point Can Be Found

Full moon over the left shoulder
Predawn twilight on the right

The body turns an anomalous compass
Spring-loaded points lacking any magnets

And finds it strange to be listening
To “The Lark Ascending” when it’s dark

From full moon then into silence or nearly
Real birds twittering through a whole dawn

Not many not ever many on this mesa and 
Fewer singing birds everywhere each year

Just one right now signaling monotonously
Toward the sun on a storm-downed juniper

Since the math is backed by the evidence
Let’s grant energy and mass remain

The same and maybe also total information 
But events can only keep on happening 

And no point can be found without more
Of them which is why I guess the birds 

Grow less given a happening has to reduce
Something to make room for new things

And balance information in that energy-mass
Ledger just as when every now and then

Among all my latest newest always younger
Students of human evolution appearing

In each introductory semester sometimes
Someone simply disappears and usually

As with these birds at dawn on the mesa
I’m not sure if something’s really diminished 

Or just moved on or I’m just imagining one
More empty seat and no more assignments 

Handed in—oh but then there are moments
When I’m compass-spun stunned to learn

A student gone missing has really vanished
And I’m asked do I know anything or even

Worse albeit more rarely as earlier this term
I was told the one who sat right in the front

Had died was dead just suddenly dead
Big cheerful fellow full of good questions

Always up for a few points extra credit
Keenly interested in Neanderthal remains

And now that’s all done yet another downed
Before yet another sunny commencement  


Among the more charming naïvetés
Of American college students for decades 

Has been their near-complete cluelessness 
About how much stuff has been happening 

And for how long—no, they love to launch
Essays with a basic and reliable grandeur 

Using something like, “Throughout history,” 
Or, “Since the beginning of time,”

Whereupon they proceed to some chosen
Phenomenon involving a few centuries

Or several thousand years at best—
And who can blame them when parents

In half the country still think the wide world
Not much older than that and history

For us starts roughly with a recent Civil War
We’ve never wholly quit fighting over—-

So here’s an opening to take as you go—
Since the dawn of time and well before

History—before any belief now espoused—
Say, for three billion years give or take—

From the simplest functioning cell forms
To the billions of us high-falutin’ humans 

With our rocket ships, smartphones, AI
And lakes of toxic waste, only two rules—

You gotta suck up some more energy daily
You gotta clean the guts of your machine

All other necessities and profound events—
Everything else life’s been—fit in between

Midnight Robes

It’s hard to take this cosplay seriously
All these peculiar blackbirds and magpies

Garish flashings on our shoulders and wings
Shuffling through the mausoleum to view

Embalmed higher learning’s wax-faced beak
Dip while the mostly young and younger

Survivors of their winnowing toss their caps
At boredom’s and wits’ end to celebrate

Then what? More rounds of more of the same
The robes returned to the rental rotations

Hung in closets shucked in offices or boxed
As if birds could take off their shirts and return

To their regular lives as burrowing worms—
Tonight the robes will float up to reassemble 

As ghosts and souls reassemble in dreams
Reassuring each other with cloaked whispers

Of black cloth murmuring no no of course not
We are not living things we have never been wings

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