Laura Sobbott Ross: "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—

incongruously symbiotic

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.