The Bottleneck

A physicist once wondered where—
since planets are so plentiful,
the surge of life so strong,
and fourteen billion years so very long—
where are all the others?

Why don’t the heavens hum with news
from Polaris and beyond?
Why do we only hear the lonely
barren hiss of hydrogen?
You could drive a truck across the Milky Way
in fourteen billion years.

Where are those creatures in their saucers?
Did they split the atom, then themselves?
Did they all fail, those ancient wise?
Is there some hurdle none can leap?
Did they see it only at the end?
Are we looking at it now?

I wonder if the galaxy is filled
with planets, overheated, overworked,
weary, barren mothers whirling in the night,
their large-brained children, long-deceased,
memorialized in strip mine pits and Styrofoam.

I wonder if we’re all the same,
scaled or feathered, blue or green,
nurtured by the evolutionary marketplace:
every creature for itself,
fruits flowing to the longest cruelest tooth,

always learning too much too soon,
to realize too late it was too little,
every Shakespeare’s words, at last,
supine in the sand, riffled by a desert wind.

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