Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Something magical is going on, even
If that something isn’t easily explained,
Wrote Janet Maslin in a movie review
More than a third of a century ago,
And it’s true, and not just in Scottish movies,
And if we knew how to explain it better
We wouldn’t keep goosing it with miracles
And flagrant wizardry in attempts to make
The subtle magic actually visible.
We don’t even know what magic means really—
From childhood we use it to refer to rules

Broken, power in our fingers, folderol.
We would perhaps be better off admitting
The ordinary world’s impossibly weird,
And we’re the dislocated ghosts moving through,
Our fairytales and fables clinging to us
Like trailing mists, our sillages, our bedsheets.
Something magical is going on, even
If we don’t perceive it’s in our perceptions,
Our addition to the scene, our confusion.
Nearly half a thousand thousand centuries
Ago, an aquatic fern wrested control

Of the planet’s climate by taking over
The landlocked Arctic Ocean’s surface layer
Of freshwater, which allowed the ferns to grow
Unchecked in a wide-open environment.
Billions of tons of ferns lived and died, then sank
To the ocean floor, taking with them carbon
They had sucked from the air when they were alive.
Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels
Plummeted by more than three-quarters over
A little less than ten thousand centuries,
Cooling the Arctic enough that the planet

Froze at the poles and lurched into a cycle
Of ice ages that continue to this day
But that may now be ending thanks to our own
Carbon-dioxide exhalations. The poles
Are melting again, even as we watch stars
From the shores the last Ice Age scraped out for us.
Something magical is going on. We know
This when we pause in our feeding and dying
And sinking to the bottom of our floating
World to look around us and wonder what is
This something that isn’t easily explained?

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