Evolution, by Linda Bierds

I saw the first line of this poem and decided I wanted to share it before I even read the rest.

Evolution

How, Alan Turing thought, does the soft-walled,

jellied, symmetrical cell

become the asymmetrical horse? It was just before dusk,

the sun’s last shafts doubling the fence posts,

all the dark mares on their dark shadows. It was just

after Schrodinger’s What is Life,

not long before Watson, Franklin, Crick, not long before

supper. How does a chemical soup,

he asked, give rise to a biological pattern? And how

does a pattern shift, an outer ear

gradually slough its fur, or a shorebird’s stubby beak

sharpen toward the trout?

He was halfway between the War’s last enigmas

and the cyanide apple—two bites—

that would kill him. Halfway along the taut wires

that hummed between crime

and pardon, indecency and privacy. How do solutions,

chemical, personal, stable, unstable,

harden into shapes? And how do shapes break?

What slips a micro-fissure

across a lightless cell, until time and matter

double their easy bickering? God?

Chance? A chemical shudder? He was happy and not,

tired and not, humming a bit

with the fence wires. How does a germ split to a self?

And what is a—We are not our acts

and remembrances, Schrodinger wrote. Should something—

God, chance, a chemical shudder?—

sever us from all we have been, still it would not kill us.

It was just before dusk, his segment

of earth slowly ticking toward night. Like time, he thought,

we are almost erased by rotation,

as the dark, symmetrical planet lifts its asymmetrical cargo

up to the sunset: horses, ryegrass—

In no case, then, is there a loss of personal existence to deplore—

marten, whitethroat, blackbird,

lark—nor will there ever be.

– Linda Bierds

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