DARWIN AND THE EYE
To suppose that the eye…could have been formed by natural selection,
seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
Charles Darwin from The Origin of Species
Next to sketchbooks of barnacles,
frogs transcended rims of fishbowls,
left tails and gills for night windows
ticking with moths newly shorn
of their worm skins— the same
green hunger compelling them now
towards this damning new light.
When he’d first seen the kangaroo
and the egg-born platypus hunting
underwater with its eyes squeezed shut—
duck-billed, web-footed, beaver-tailed,
fur as plush as a garden mole’s, he was sure
there must have been two creators—
as the sun and the moon.
And then there was the eye—
beyond its jeweled peephole,
a complex orb of prisms,
a diorama of nerve cells strummed
by gradients of light (of light?)
More reactive than the kaleidoscope
of motes and molecules re-patterning
in that teeming ocean of his mind,
the retina’s rods and cones confessed things—
threaded nuance into vision more immediate
than the channel of a fin across dry sand.
His young daughter’s name penciled
in the margin beside his favorite species
of wild orchid. The precise blue of the sea
when she died encrypted in his bones
with the same fossilized God
of blister pearls, ammonites, seed ferns.
Laura Sobbott Ross has had poetry in Florida Review, Calyx, Cold Mountain Review, Columbia Review, Natural Bridge, Tar River Poetry, and Caribbean Writer, among others.