Posts Tagged 'evolution'

The physics lesson of Australopithecus

a-pithicus 

Light travels in red grey sunset angles through the deep trees in the ancient jungle. Tiny Australopithecus rummages underneath his leafy bed and slides into his flip-flops. Strapping on the pith helmet left him by his grandfather, the great great great grand father of the hominid just before us, he walks quietly into the night.

He walks quietly into the night; stealth is a gift we are given by the DNA of our common ancestry with things that need both to be afraid and to be feared. I carry a stick. You carry a stick. Miraculously, the enormous lonely rhythm of the heart running through the carotid artery and out again keeps fear at bay and carries messages through the jungle that we are ant we are anteater we are poodle we are dictator. Blood messages, like time travelers, salinating and desalinating the bitter taste of worry. Quickly, quickly, quickly tricking the heart into believing in the ticking of the bomb that carries away sweetness and the mating of apes and aphids.

The mating of apes and aphids is contained in a module on biological sciences, stored in the library next to a laminated poster of dinosaurs eating swamp grass, heads swiveling, looking for predators. In the courtyard nearby there is a substitute teacher; he is sweating and his eyebrows feel worried. He strokes his face and wishes he had not dropped out of graduate school again. He strokes his face and looks down the hall. He is tall, the hall is long, the bell has rung and he is surrounded by a sea of pygmies, washing around him and he is afraid. He sees a boy and thinks of himself and thinks about sitting out in the parking lot listening to Abba on his Ipod, but today is a strange day and someone would probably call the police to report a strange man with worried eyebrows sitting alone in his car, and at least inside the school he has a known identity. Sub. Subject. Subjected. There is such as thing as too closely shaved; his skin feels raw and shiny like a baby something, a baby something not human, more newt-like or reptilian, and the air feels cold rushing against his naked face as the children open and close the doors on their way to the playground.

On their way to the playground they find a fossil. They find many fossils, and some sticks. Here: I carry a stick and you carry a stick. Put the stick down. Put the stick down. Then later all of them pouring out of the playground like Ovaltine and slightly burned milk, too hot to settle down now. The man is an Australopithecus wandering lonely in the jungle, the desert, the changing expectations, the creased perma-press dockers, the perma-frost largely unmentioned in classroom or cafeteria but ubiquitous nonetheless. Ubiquitous, the melting down of hard to soft, of cold to hot, the disenfranchisement of order. The blacktop is melted, the tar pits are hardened, the hominid hums a little tune and carries a little stick to dig in the earth. He digs in the earth, humming a little tune and then he goes home and sings the song to his son.

He goes home and sings the song to his son and they make a new bed together, out of rushes woven together and this year there are no stinging insects, because the cold that surprised them killed the mites that bit them and the woman who bore the children. They carry their little sticks and pots of water and grow things, and then centuries – thousands upon thousands of them – happen. The waters melt and freeze and someone invents Miracle Whip and pajamas and then they are here, with the frightened substitute teacher and the freakish death of the drummer for Abba, who fell through a window and slit his own throat. He carried a stick, and he hummed little songs for himself and his daughter, his little dancing queen now all grown up but fatherless and the substitute teacher is sad today.

The substitute teacher is sad today, but like the tides will get over it and reach in and out of the bag in which he carries his secrets, the sorrows and those epiphanies that surprise us whenever we find them, no matter how many times we’ve found them before. It’s the scrabble bag, all the letters are the same every time but the recombination of elements makes every moment new. All the letters are the same every time. Origin of species giving us the same dreams dreamed by a tiny man in a timeless world in a spinning orb in the gasses that surround us. Light travels from unimaginable distances to unimaginable distances, light travels like time, light travels like no time, light travels, light travels.

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At the intersection

© Teresa Valle 2006

I. Making change

Keep it in your pocket.
Give it to the men who hold signs in exhaust.
Give it to the barista with the plump little belly, the bright nose ring.

Change happens during coagulation, the altering of blood from liquid
to solid. A settling of substance, the end result a state of no change.
During circulation, the end result is no end result, end process only,
a flowing away of substance; never stops leaving,
never finishes arriving.

The biological definition of life is irritability.
If you poke it with a stick and it responds, it must be alive.

Curmudgeonly, the living. In a continual state of reaction and withdrawal.
Tidal.  Moonscape shows the blue-lit octopus waving his tentacles,
restless and resting, reaching, grabbing, sucking      exclamation points declaiming
alive alive alive      into the deep blue deep blue below

foggy eyes move past, bubbles
rise and sing and gasp

            Luke, I’m your father. Down on his knees, Luke crying
            Jesus fucking Christ I am alive and it hurts, old dad

           But old dad just keeps on wheezing, deeper and darker, colder
           than obsidian.           What a terrible risk it is

to be alive, what a terrible risk we say, and imagine a cold old
Davy Jones and the breathless beyond. We are sure
            somehow      that the unreachable unknowable is more
desirable than here where we struggle for air.

II. Evolution

Imagine that you are on your knees praying       day and night       except 
when working at your job,      scrubbing the toilet,      weeding
your garden,      washing your children,      taking your lover in
your mouth.     One day it occurs to you that

your life revolves around genuflection
bowing and scraping and breathing for release.  A remembrance of waves
washes by one day and draws you back into the deep.  The sound of air
calls a song from over-yonder and that reminds you
          somehow
of your grandpa and his mean-spirited lay gospel.  You imagine him
in the great beyond and it seems to have surprised him.  He’s wearing

nice clothes,    but    half the Beach Boys are there with him,
and lots of old blue-black blues men, and he’s pretty sure
there was supposed to be two heavens, one for white folks,
one for coloreds.    But    even before he passed he noticed
it was getting harder to tell exactly what color some folks
was, and it’s possible that that great great grandma of his mighta
been more colored than Indian,    so    maybe there was

   separate heavens, and he’d gotten assigned according to lineage,
the begettings and begottens of  a long family. He starts to think
 about evolution and himself as  half-man, half crocodile. This makes him
smile; he pats his own arms and belly,
looking for scales, or feathers, or something that says

man, here, is part of a continuum, not a settling of accounts, not
an end point.    But      patting his pocket he finds some
change      a few quarters, a nickel with an unfamiliar profile.
III. At the intersection

He sits for a long time on a log in a quiet place that smells of
swamp and a faint sea breath, playing with the coins, flipping
    head tail head head tail tail head    smoothing them
warm with thumb and forefinger.          Eventually, the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.
the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

 


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