The Gravity of Accidents

The law cannot control this crowd,
This crush of insects,
This rabble of plants,
This riot of birds,
This surge of humans,
Each with an eye for dinner,
All food for one another,
Or a quickie in the bushes,
In this frenetic genetic game,
This tumultuous , bawling,
Barking, squeaking, squawking mass
Lurching to-and-fro,
Listing side-to-side,
Worms away with no aim in sight,
Propelled by the gravity of accidents
To arrive at this random, horrible grandeur.

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Depth Charge: At last Saturday’s Quebec Writers’ Federation workshop on revision led by Bruce Taylor, we chose from a selection of short prose pieces and transformed our choice into a poem. I chose a paragraph from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species: “It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” I’ve reworked the original poem a bit, it was a revision workshop after all, but it initial outpouring remains pretty much intact.

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