December 16th, 2009

In Five Spenserian Stanzas


The product of a million years of change,
I am my genes, reflect biology,
As DNA works patterns in a range
Of proteins just to fabricate a “me
Of little cells, repeating endlessly
Some simple combinations that define
A complex that’s unique, as I can see
When I look in the mirror–the face is mine–
So long in evolution, but, I think, “Looks fine!”


Still, every time I look is here and now–
I am my time, determined by the place,
Its mores and its myths, its why and how–
That’s why I wear a tie and how my face
Gets shaved, electric’ly. The human race
Now races to the market in a car.
What I was taught in school provides the base
For what I think I think. Look up! A “star”!
Indoctrinated locally, I can’t see far.


And man’s a “social” animal they say.
I am one of a group, a family,
A married man, defined, at work or play.
A father, teacher, citizen–that’s “me”–
My family name is half my destiny.
American and Kansan just as much,
With numbers that insure “security,”
Certificates, and licenses, and such–
And credit cards define a me they all can touch.


But yet I feel I’m capable of choice.
I am a creature exercising will,
Can choose to read a book, can raise my voice,
Can write a poem, refuse to pay a bill,
Can spare an ant, or elephant, or kill–
On impulse, or on calculated plan.
I say I have a spirit, dreaming still
Of what I might become, and still be man,
Imagining no limits when I say, “I can!”


So what is man–the dancer or the dance?
Am I the sum of four? Of two times two?
My mother and my father met by chance,
Their genes combined, one evening, as genes do,
And there I was! The social forces knew–
They’d married first, an act of will, sublime.
And fate then touched that moment. Something new
Began to be, was then informed in time–
An accident, ‘twould seem–who sits composing rhyme.

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