Today’s poem is by my friend Joel Brouwer, who is currently Associate Professor of English (Creative Writing) at the University of Alabama.
"Astronomers Detect Water in Distant Galaxy, Suggest Life May Be Present Throughout Universe"
–San Francisco Chronicle April 3, 1994
by Joel Brouwer
Whether a thimbleful frozen hard as a tooth
or a boiling lagoon they don't say.
Because it doesn't matter. A single drop
or an ocean makes the same implication,
namely: maybe. Maybe we're not alone
in this universe, friends. Maybe bathtubs
up there, bougainvillea and thunderheads.
And maybe (why not?) they've got it
good up there: no mumps, no smashed china
on the kitchen floor, no rubber checks
to the gas company, no Kalashnikovs . . .
Beleaguered skeptics everywhere, you may begin
dreaming now. Of wars fought with peonies,
or glasses of milk. Of every belly filled each day
with dish after succulent dish. Of law books
one sentence long: "Be nice." But maybe this
is too much to hope. Perhaps
they're just protozoa up there, wiggling
blind in a sullen puddle. Let's rocket there quick
and help them avoid our mistakes,
snatch the stone from their first murderer's hand,
inoculate them for plague and smallpox,
burn their Oppenheimer's notes. In a few million years
they could be perfect, with our help,
and then we could go live there too, simply,
in cabañas along the ocean, eating mangoes
and staring out at the deep blue water, wondering
when somewhere out there the first shark
will feel its first tooth
rise like a dagger from its jaw.
from Exactly What Happened. Purdue University Press, 1999.