WMC News & Features

Looking on the Bright Side

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A Light Verse Comfort

Living in an age of scientific agonists,

it’s easy to forget there was a time

we’d have been burned alive.


True, they would have burned me

and my kind for so many reasons

so many times:

for loving a man while unwed,

for loving a woman,

for being a woman.

For being a woman who’d learned how to read.

For being a woman who knew how to write.

And this now, for trembling

with what must be surely possession

by Satan.


They’re around still, the folks

who’d have burned us alive. How

they love burning things! Now

they set virtual fires to funding for research,

to laws that protect us when we can

no longer walk a straight line.


Which brings to mind a metaphor—what doesn’t?—

about who we are really, all of us; what really happens

when we can no longer walk a straight line.


Navigating the night is hard enough

for species that rely on visual cues.

Easy enough when the moon is bright, but

what to do on moonless nights?


Well, the lowliest creatures, ones who

evoke our disgust, dung beetles,

they find their way.


These beetles roll balls of dung

for later use as, yes, food—or sometimes mating gifts.

Once they collect the dung, they quickly roll the ball

away from the pile, to avoid theft by other beetles.

They do this by moving in a straight line.


Scientists studying that behavior learned

the beetles could move in a straight line on moonlit nights

and on moonless nights, too—if light from the Milky Way

was visible. When the sky was overcast, or when the beetles

had tiny visors taped on to their heads to block their view

of the night sky, they wandered aimlessly.


This research is thought to be the first to document the use

of galactic light for orientation in the animal kingdom.


And I thought five thoughts:


1. Well, this too is science.

2. Is it possible to wander aimfully?

3. How irritating it must be to have a visor taped to one’s

    tiny head.

4. So are we all, despite pretense of being human, dung beetles

    navigating the night by the flare of indifferent, celestial glory.

5. Who needs to walk in a straight line, anyhow?

Excerpted from Dark Matter: New Poems by Robin Morgan, on sale wherever books are sold. Published here with permission of the author and of Spinifex Press, Copyright 2018 by Robin Morgan, All Rights Reserved.




Robin Morgan
Co-founder. Women's Media Center, Host & Producer of WMC Live with Robin Morgan, Writer, Activist
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