I just now overheard a scholar dismiss all the life in this entire universe as a random occurrence birthed from chaos.
And his rationale for the irrefutable reality and benign complexity of our life-giving earth: “Well, it’s like we’re riding a winning lottery ticket.”
Then explain to me the unfathomable depth in a human tear. How the one sourcing the tear is in instant communion with every being who has ever cried out in pain or joy.
Justify how synchronicity, déjà vu, joie de vivre, and the innate drive to be empathic can be reduced to chemical reactions.
Clarify why the new physics is on a mission to de-camouflage the soul of the cosmos. Account for the existence of the word—and pervasiveness of the permanent human infatuation with—soul.
Enlighten us how it is possible that existence is a one-in-a-trillion chance when mathematicians have proven that the timeline probability of the evolution of just one simple enzyme found in the human body would take far longer than the known age of the universe. Defend the evolution of the other 75,000 enzymes and how they accidentally work in concert.
Use your logic to clarify why there is something rather than nothing. And why you are, rather than why you are not.
Now, when you’re exhaustedly emptied of cluttered and circular explanations, sit outside and commune with a star, a pebble, even the air, and reflect honestly upon the trite nature of your arguments.
Then, if you dare, set your last remnant of jaded arrogance aside, and you’ll have proven your destiny as a bona fide winner.
I wish my worn mind would wax morphic
so to slip unnoticed into the tableau
of chimpanzees asleep in the trees
Or enter a houseful of dogs and
know at which corner of the carpet
I am welcome to lie
I want to fiddle like a cricket in a morphic field
surrounded with so much flora
I learn each plant’s ultimate mission
Or go into bear mind to get wind of
the original quirk that led to
the very first hibernation
I want to sit in the center of a grove of trees
and breathe together in prolonged yoga
while the stories in their rings enter my vertebrae
Or swim for days along the seashore
and be force fed by rays and pelicans
until my own salty blood trades places with seawater
I want to climb a hard mountain
to touch the soft sky
all to confirm: When I don’t think—I am
(This poem first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Kosmos Quarterly)
"Started out, for god knows where..."
- Tom Petty
one day we arose homo erectus spending a mere million years to decide not just to stay standing but to ponder and chew roots and walk north at the same time not seeing the writing on the labyrinth wall because back over our shoulder we now homo sapiens could still see the entrance yet at one of the early turns—maybe a snowstorm or a tiger—we tried turning tail back toward the cradle but too many behind were pushing us since roots and fruits were running thin we went for the insects then small mammals noting how hard stone could not only knock out a big beast but some softer lumps could graffiti the walls and others made sparks to light up the labyrinth and keep us warm speaking of which we grunted and gestured then by god spoke and passed around the bright idea that skins were smart party attire as even the dorothies among us realized we weren’t in jungleland anymore and we took only a hundred thousand years this time and myriad attempts at maze navigation to realize planting bunches of the sweet seeds we’d been eating grew a whole crop straight out of the floor and nobody forecast the accident that heating those sparkly rocks in the fire released their secrets into sharp weapons and blunt tools yes we liked some of the goods from the group across the river as they—craving our dodo-bird jerky—started talking trade so the first tycoons grouped us in large camps where we tried on clout and warrior outfits to protect our stores none of us grasping we were up to our eyeballs in civilization and in our forward march through these halls we never bid goodbye to the bushmen pygmies berbers busy as we were pushing ourselves into new corridors donning the garb of canaanites of dravidians while waving back toward africa while we outbred neanderthals while inbreeding with goths while rounding corners to become hindus whose ancestor (really us) banished the monguls (also us) to the icy chamber where they kicked their outcasts (us) through the wall out to the siberian bridge—still in the greater maze—to become beringians who had to run in place five millennia for the big thaw to keep walking south or east to become us paleo-indian-people hoping for that glimpse of africa while evolving inside the labyrinth to become the likes of iroquois and seminole and apache and aztec and inca and maya—while back in the belly of eurasia we summerians ignored we etruscans who poo pooed we slavs—as we vikings begat celts who spanked us romans who thank some god or other had no clue the aboriginals were being transplanted by alien space farmers to mingle with the polynesians we kicked out of pre-taiwan but we drowned it all out with awe-full squeals when the Red Sea engulfed pharoah’s army not at the death but the sheer spectacle and who knew the romans would get religion and briefly stall the moors with crusades while every pre-gandhi type became self-blindfolded when it was mis-understood that certain lives were more valuable yes this remains a dead end causing all style of extinctions through the labyrinth plaguing us to this day yes even amidst the genocidal darknesses war paused for the grecian olympics yes the enlightenment lifted our spirits (until it didn’t) yes we late-bloomer maasai keep our color to this day yes original optimism of we ottomans fractured like a fallen sculpture yes we incas burned hot & bright then were doused out even as we died in the plagues until we evolved antidote-finding geniuses followed all too soon by the mad echoes of our screams at the stupidity of trench warfare screams with hunger in the mighty depression screams on the beaches of france screams over viet nam screams at the beatles rescue effort screams for the death of camelot and doctor king screams falling from the twin towers joyful screams as iceland gave us shelter all these cries crescendo-ing when we knew our kind would continue pushing through our self-built labyrinth but this is an extra test altogether this no ordinary dead end bees die on our crops sea creatures choke on collective plastic vomit poisons march hard on the biosphere even sea salt is unclean now there’s this virusy damn thorny protein demon teaching our tissue to host it and multiply (helluva design goddie) so we leave notes in niches in the labyrinth walls a sick extinction tribute so let us shoulder our bag of slim hopes and stand on our heads in the halls at the laughable belief in corporate endangerment upside down in a pose beyond hope hungering for a hollywood ending as precious blood rushes into our heads just maybe causing a collective magical-thinking hemorrhage wherein we coax the end-times invader onto our most comely surface trick it to mutate until it turns on itself evolves benignly or dies astonishingly because unobserved: like human like virus
I used to see it one way
The world’s secret?
You grow up
You learn—a lot
You self express
But I’ve changed
Now it’s even more simple:
In each moment
Chapter 27: Andre’s High
At least once in every life, a day dawns with a realization that despite your up-bringing, despite your foibles, you stumble onto the nature of the heavenly realm. You know it from the little things. Your morning orange juice bursts with the intensity of the tropical grove from which it sprang. The sun slanting through the lingering mist surely leapt off Seurat’s brush only moments ago. And who is this god looking back at you from the mirror?
Andre is on fire, but not with that ruthless blaze that brings forth the light hidden within the soul, ultimately to consume it along with any shred of guarded self worth. “This is the real deal,” he says out loud, emerging from the tunnel and getting that first breathtaking glimpse of the towers of the Golden Gate. He draws a breath and the superstructure of the bridge, the cars in front, the tree-studded far shore—all of it moves into and through him.
The phone call from Sheryl was not the product of his imagination. It really happened. Okay. It’s not happening right now, so…so what! “Give it up you tight-ass!” He actually yells at himself! Wow! In that instant, Andre has to admit that he is tired of his own rhetoric. “Why not just simply be—and stop this incessant analysis. Last time you looked, you were an architect, not a shrink, for Chrissakes.”
They were on the phone for over an hour, making plans, rejecting them. Neither of them cared. They were in love and in touch. The loose ends of Kostas and company seemed insignificant. They considered everything. Sheryl quitting the Embassy and jetting to him—tomorrow. Andre sneaking off to the Bahamas in a private boat for a beach-time reunion. Or both of them, waiting out the capture and confessions of the Greek fugitives—finally clearing Andre of the ridiculous suspicions Frank continues to entertain—and a reunion in Santorini.
They decided to give it twenty days and then take action. They talked honestly about the pitfalls of long-distance relationships. They vowed this one would be short and that they would check in every other day. It sounded perfect. Solid. At least Andre, given his in-depth experience with construction delays, should know that nothing in this world is solid until it’s actually happening.
But right now pulling into the parking garage below his office, all Andre sees is Sheryl swimming in the stunning sea off Santorini, not the man in the dark sedan who’s pulled in behind him, parking a few spaces away.