Last Night We Saw South Pacific

I wake to see a cardinal in our white
          crape myrtle. My eye aches. Bees celebrate
morning come with their dynamo-hum
                    around a froth of bloom.

Though presently it’s paradise for the bees,
          noon will reach ninety-nine degrees.
Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’ hui
                    will stultify hope in ennui.

I watched Raging Planet on TV.
          Earth’s orbit around the sun appears
to alter every hundred thousand years.
                    Each thirty million years,

mass extinctions attend Earth’s
          traverse of the galactic plane.
The asteroid rain that cratered the moon
                    returns, brings species’ deaths.

In the Hudson Bay region of Quebec,
          the Laurentide ice sheet
only a geological eye-blink
                    ago lay two miles thick.

Disasters preceded us, like violent parents.
          Pangaea’s fragmenting land mass
drowned origins like lost Atlantis:
                    an enigma for consciousness.

These continents will re-collide
          in their rock-bending tectonic dance,
as once before Tyrannosaurus died.
                    So change continues by chance,

as if meaningless—granite to sand,
          sand to sandstone, sandstone to sand.
In five billion years, the sun will expand,
                    to Venus and Mars, then end

planet Earth. The hydrangea blooms
          its dry blue, burns a brown lavender.
Earth whirls in space and August comes—
                    this slanted light my calendar.

As I water the pink phlox, I wonder
          what use there is for a world of matter—
why the universe exploding into being invents
                    night and star-incandesence?

We are the part of it that feels it,
          thinks it, seeing this time in its slant
on bloom with our physical brains that
                    change it as they sense it.

We become. We hum a story as tune,
          in sonata form that runes this sphinx-
riddle sequence as notes that the pharynx
                    fluctuates, to mean.

So “This Nearly Was Mine” assuages,
          braced against old loss and war.
Emile de Becque sounds rich with knowledge
                    of children and love, before.

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from A Diary of Altered Light: Poems by James Applewhite. Copyright © 2006 by James Applewhite.