OK, it’s President’s Day and here’s the link. The 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln and also Charles Darwin was last week, Feb 12. Apparently, they were born within minutes of each other. I chose Darwin to focus on today.
“Mr. G,” my former chemistry teacher and mentor in the late 1960’s at Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods, Michigan, noted scientific references in my poem, “Meltdown.” My science background weaves into my poetry in unexpected ways sometimes. A few years ago, I read some articles about pre-historic findings in Illinois and ancient art in France. Just after that, out of the blue, my friend, Brigitte, asked if I knew of any poems about evolution. I thought about it and decided to write one myself (and then another). Here is the result.
Poem of Evolution
A poem on evolution—
do I know of one?
Maybe yet to be written.
just the facts, ma’am.
How two cells merged into one
out of mutual admiration
in primordial soup under conditions
considered inhospitable today.
First, molecule joined molecule,
or arrived on a comet some say.
Not a process for seven days,
And the cells that were formed—
drawn to nourishment,
protectively repelled by toxins—
some survived, some perished.
Survivors passed on genes to progeny,
mutations occurred, mostly disadvantageous.
Again and again survivors passed on genes.
Some advantages in multi-cellular organisms,
what worked persisted.
Climate change, comets splash into solid earth,
glaciers carve out lakes and oceans,
land masses move across molten layers,
earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains erupt
from tumultuous land.
Gases, ash, ice, sun, newly formed oxygen
play their sequential, essential roles—
timing is everything.
And I do not mention the mystery
about what is not known—only the when,
but not the how, the why, and the who,
Why such beauty and symmetry
arose from chaos
and continues to arise,
a constant, magnanimous unfolding.
But the facts—written in rock:
a hunted herd of bison trapped in the muck,
and carcasses left long ago by a river in Illinois,
a pre-historic bee frozen in amber,
a full skeleton of a new dinosaur,
an ancient woman unexpectedly buried as a warrior,
vivid, realistic paintings tens of thousands of years old
newly discovered in caves in France.
Time trapped in stone
to be later uncovered.
The facts are plain,
the interpretations complex
and open to varied belief.
A poem about evolution
to take in the whole of it,
the flow of time over billions of years,
flowing right past this tiny,
but crucial moment in the middle.
A poem of wooly mammoths and elephants,
Neanderthals, gorillas, chimps, and humans,
the intelligence of dolphins and whales,
a tale of bacteria, some friendly, some pathogens,
of predators and prey and neighbors.
A poem of insects, the cockroaches
that would survive a
Yes, this poem of evolution,
of holograms, the widest view
and the most narrow—
a bite of an apple looking the same
as the whole apple.
Honoring the role of the moon as
mother of the seasons.
Yes, this would be a poem
of epic proportion
and universal dimension
and Divine (and personal) implication.
Margaret Dubay Mikus
Addendum to Poem on Evolution
What is it makes a human?
At one time it was thought to be use of tools,
until it was observed that chimps, for example,
fashion a twig as a tool to get ants.
So then, it must be language.
But recently it was uncovered
that some male songbirds
learn new songs and phrases
to communicate—like language.
So it must be the large number of genes
it would take to run this complex
organism called human.
But no, the number of genes,
when counted (and sequenced)
was smaller than some much more primitive organisms
and had much in common with yeast cells even.
True, human genes are regulated in
imaginative and complex ways.
So what is it makes a human?
Perhaps not even the most intelligent species here.
You don’t see dolphins and whales
fouling their habitats,
and destroying the homes of others.
To my knowledge they do not attack their own kind.
No, that describes the human condition.
I do not mean to be a cynic,
but some facts are incontrovertible.
Margaret Dubay Mikus