LADDER

You have to stop and wonder,
the child said, why people
can take joy in killing, why
people can scheme each other,
why people can cheat if they can.

Birds, the child added, only
try and scheme people for food,
why they cheat for the sake
of cheating, kill for pleasure,
yet we say we are the higher species.

Perhaps, the child concludes,
it is we who are standing
on our heads, looking up
the species ladder, and we
are actually on the bottom.

GRAMMATICALLY APART

What sets us apart
from other species
has little or nothing
to do with self-awareness
and everything to do
with parts of speech.

The birds outside
my window shun labels,
think only of eating,
mating, flight, of going
and arriving, of being.

They know nothing of birth,
do not fear death, for it
is merely a label they cannot
accept or understand.

It is left to our kind
to need to label, to define
every small and large thing
for we sense our existence
and must rely on two things,
for we knew that we live
a world of pronoun and noun.

EXTINCTION

My granddaughter is intensely
concerned with the growing loss
of species, and rightly so, and I
share her fears, though I feel
largely powerless to do anything.

She has the faith of youth, a belief
that she and her peers can,
with work, effect a lasting change,
climb up the slippery slope which
we have cast them down, and save
other species from a fate
nature never could have intended.

But she cannot fathom the losses
that I have seen, things I knew
rendered extinct by her generation,
and that of her parents, the cassette
player, the typewriter, carbon paper,
and stationery and a writing desk,
to name only a few, but at least
the haven’t outdated my Blackberry.

FORKED TONGUE

I can’t tell you how long
it’s been since I’ve seen
a snake around here, mostly
because my sense of time
has limits of a decade.

I read that they are plentiful
in the Everglades, hunted
as an invasive species, which
probably stands to reason
since our hatred is by now

of Biblical proportions, and we
have learned to love goats,
so, it is the snake that now
is consigned to be the source
of all our errors and failings.

And were that not enough,
you cannot trust what a snake
says for obvious reasons, but you
must ignore that the hummingbird
beloved by all, also has a forked tongue.

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS

We are, he is convinced,
devolving into verbal neanderthals,
losing are ability to recognize
the linguistic tools that once
set us apart from other species,
or at least so we assured ourselves.
She knows that what truly sets us
apart from other species is the arcane
skill we have at being able
to convince ourselves that
delusion, firmly held, is fact.
Still, she cannot disagree with him,
simplicity is a too close cousin
to inanity, and nuance is the first
relative to be cast out. And so
with ever fewer words, we seem
to have ever more to say,
and speaking endlessly, say ever less.

APART-IAL EXPLANATION

It is all to often debated
what sets humans apart
the other species, and that
will not be agreed any time soon
(which a cynic would note
is one such thing itself).

Freud would claim it is only
our ego, our sense of self,
which may explain why people
are so capable of being self-
ish, and I suspect he was
certain he was wholly correct
but I would give him only partial credit.

It is far simpler than that: record
your voice, record a Sandhill
crane and play them back
and I assure you that you
will say you sound nothing
like what the recorder heard
while the crane will nervously
look all around for his unseen kin.

VICTIM OF TECHNOSTANCE

He says, “it’s like learning to walk again
after you’ve had a stroke, you know you can
but nothing seems to work quite right when you try.”

She says, “you just upgrading from one model iPhone
to the newer model, so don’t overplay it,
it isn’t a matter of life itself you know.
And if you didn’t need the newest and latest
you wouldn’t have this problem would you?”

He says, “You’re right to that extent, but think
if I didn’t need the newest and latest
I’d hardly be a male of my species, so
be thankful i’m having these problems.
Anyway, i think i have it now, finally.”

She says, “why didn’t you answer when I called?
You said you had the phone figure out,
so turn around and go get the milk and butter,
Sorry about the rain, it was sunny when I called
as you are leaving the office for here.”

POSTDILUVIAN

So when Noah finally docks the ark
on Mt. Ararat, or wherever, how
does he decide which animals get off first?
And for that matter, the earth having
been flooded for weeks, just what
are they supposed to eat on new land?
For the vegetarians it must have been
very slim pickings, and who wants
a badly waterlogged salad anyway?
And with two of each only, what
did the carnivores actually eat?
If you stop and think about this
long enough you are left to wonder
just how many species were sacrificed
to God’s little tamper tantrum, and
let’s not mention how three sons
and mom and dad, the sole survivors
managed to repopulate the world.