Looking on the Bright Side
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
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
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.