Natural History

Rebecca Lehmann

Tell me the world. Here comes light, unspoken.
Light hooks a claw on the horizon, pulls itself
into view. Here comes water, saline,
scattering single-celled organisms.
Land is a puppet. It climbs hydrothermal vents like stairs.
Lava congeals. Land rises. Here comes land,
hand-springing out of water. Wind is a comma,
pausing the day. At night, wind kicks its legs.
What about multi-celled life? What about invertebrates
and vertebrates? Tell me evolution.
Tell me old growth forests. Tell me a rainbow.
Tell me blue-tailed skinks. Here comes science,
explaining eyeballs. Look, here come the stars.
Here comes a commuter train, hopping the rails
and crashing into an empty sidewalk
at 2:30 in the morning. Here come sparklers.
Use them to trace letters of light in the darkness.
Here comes someone’s childhood cat. Here comes a paper
about George Washington, complete with colored
pencil illustrations of his many sets of false teeth.
Tell me bourgeois glass lanterns strung from a live oak.
Tell me a graveyard bigger than its town.
Please understand I mean no harm. Hold the phone.
Here comes Tina, hand-springing across the backyard.
Here comes a tent. Wind boxes its nylon sides,
scaring the children, their sleeping bags unfurled
and arranged like daisy petals. Tell me a flashlight.

Related Poems

On the Origins of Things

Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I 
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient 
game of jump-the-fire gave rise 
to politics. But I will confess 
that I began as an astronomer—a liking 
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things, 
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.