Tell me the exact number of times
that I have tried to look at the big picture.
My futile attempts at trying
to fathom the depth of the Mariana Trench, to
elevate my comprehension to 29,029 feet
above my own two,
to grasp the what that makes me crane
my neck for past suns during a night drive.
The what that makes me shudder
at abyssal cosmic scales and
surrender before deep geologic time,
That makes me marvel over my utter failure
to comprehend a billion.
Failed deduction motivates induction:
And thus no less are the times that I have tried,
the multitudes hidden in nano and pico and femto.
Strings vibrating into particles forming atoms making molecules creating cells
I have measured, observed, calculated, tested, falsified,
I have trapped, have caged, have isolated, have abused,
have poisoned, killed, dissected, electrified!
I have repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated!
I have thought!
I have assured you—and myself—that I know.
But the bigger lie was when I said
The only thing I think
I understand now is that
they never needed us
and never will they.
And yet. There is your longing.
Your longing and mine
for Iberian lynx to procreate.
For a Yaak Valley unspoiled.
Our longing for Martha to ascend.
But is our longing about them?
Not maybe a mere longing
for them to need us?
For us to be needed?
That it might be our gaze that makes them important?
What would extinction mean
“There never was,” you say,
“anything else. Only these excruciatingly
insignificant creatures we love.”
I wrote this poetic exercise in response to Ellen Bass's "The Big Picture." The quoted section in the last stanza is taken from that poem.