Evolution

Evolution

The chickens mill and scratch;
what do they know of their theropod ancestry,
how many millennia it took
to evolve a brain, without neocortex,
capable of amodal completion
immediately upon hatching, a brain
that supplies all they need for survival
until the hatchet, predatory snag, parasite, virus?
Hens in the garden stride through scythed weeds,
make an unhurried ambit of the dead
and dying remainders—
Stumps of stalks, twisted beige grasses
the color of birds’ tail and breast feathers,
brown-speckled hens, rumps dun, red combs.
They cluster in a fence corner,
step on each other’s heads,
snap up bees and beetles during autumn’s
short-limbed days. The clawed foot
extends, grasps, clings to roost.
A Jurassic hinge, rusting, its vitality immured
in the muttered musing of hens.
Dry leaves, blooms gone to seed.
How the mighty have fallen.

~

This is an older poem, going back at least ten years. It seemed suitable for the end of autumn and the looming solstice today. I love that I could use the terms amodal and neocortex in a poem. That kind of poetic vocabulary isn’t everybody’s “jam,” but the thwarted scientist in me enjoys playing around with this sort of fact-meets-art interdisciplinary terminology. And yes, there’s an opportunity for metaphor here, in the virus and in the chances evolution randomly develops as to who’s on top or who thinks they are on top. A lesson for us all.

A William Carlos Williams moment in Emmaus

As the spring semester closes, I am trying to get to some housekeeping of several sorts–literal and metaphorical housekeeping. Yard work, filing, dusting, going through poems and essays and books I meant to comment upon…revisions, half-finished proposals and papers, and folders on my computer that are obscurely titled and mysteriously organized.

One thing I thought I’d do when I have a few minutes at the computer is to upload some past notes from a site I no longer use. Most of them are not worth saving, but there are a few I still like. Here’s one dated Saturday, April 18, 2009:

~

Working in the yard and garden this morning. The peas are sprouting, the asparagus are poking up. Here’s the anecdote of the day for those of you who appreciate a little poetry allusion.

My husband, preparing to move some topsoil, yells to me, “Where’s the red wheelbarrow?”

And I was able to reply, because it was literally true: “Glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens!”

white chickens

[A photo from later in the day–the rainwater glaze had evaporated.]