Terran Life

by Maureen N. McLane

photography Katsuhiko Kimura

Issue IV

Terran Life 1

   an essay beginning with a line of William Wordsworth

When we had given our bodies to the wind 
we found bones in the earth and not in the sky.
We found arrowheads in the earth and not in the sky though they’d flown through the air        
       before grounding.
The era of common sense is over
& finished too the flourishing of horoscopes.  
Hey traveler what chart to sign your way?  what iPhone app?
All the birthdays have immolated themselves in a far pyre 
and no one knows where
they were born.
Earth gods always come after sky gods.
If you could choose
a secret power would it be flight?—
a wish more often expressed
than the desire for invisibility.
“A mythology reflects its region” wrote Wallace Stevens
and Montale sang the sea the lemon trees and pines
the Ligurian breeze salting his lines 
and a lightly placed step on a Greek mountain is the goat song of tragedy.
Jehovah rarely shows his face for we would die of it
die as surely as those who looked to the sky in the bombing raid
the underground tunnels a sudden refuge
Out of ash I come        Out of the earth
Back to ash I go          He fashioned them
male and female I tell you
they wore the most beautiful evanescent clothes
in paradise so much subtler than the trawling nakedness of heaving giants
hurling other giants to heaven & some to hell
on the restored ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Thus far clones are of earth, alone.
When you say earth you mean land but more than land        You mean the oceans
       covering “the earth” as if earth were the substrate of everything and not also the        crust.
I found the ground sound, unfaulted, uncracked, even where the continents have split
        and will again split the archaic seamstress unable to suture the plates of the
        earth forever.
"Terran life": what the biologists typically study but “weird life” is also a zone of 
        research.  “It is easy to conceive of chemical reactions that might support life
        involving noncarbon compounds”—
viz. The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, p. 6.
Earth now supports life but could not now initiate it.
Crawl, sway, sashay: you’re still doing it on an earth
        you take for granted instead of going crazy
        yr head blown off by an apple no I meant an IED no
I meant an apple.
Newtonian physics’ defunct but that doesn’t mean an apple doesn’t fall
far from the tree composed of atoms whose dark matter you don’t know
how to measure, supermodel.  Me neither.
Gravity thy name is woman
       always secretly pulling me toward you
       as if I had no resistance
       as if the clothes I wore were merely draped
       on a mannequin as if I were merely an earthbound species with new skin
       that fur an old animal’s fur
       reclaimed by another.
Did you see the subtle shift from umber to somber to ochre on the walls
       of Les Caves de Lascaux?
What ibex steps as beautifully as you
what ancient bison shakes the steppes
what gazelle’s ankles are so perfectly turned as yours?

There are no crackheads in prehistory but surely
they were addicted to something those hominids
strutting their way out of the savannah—

I demand the sun 
shine on me
I demand the moon bare its face in the night
and lo! damn! see how these heavenly bodies do what they do
like clockwork before clocks
like skin before clothes
like the earth before the parting of the waters revealed
the earth was the earth is the earth . . .
And if she only likes vegetable things
that grow toward the light
and if she will not eat your roots and tubers
how then choose 
between a rooting boar and an urban forager—
There is beauty in indistinct areas the microtonal
hover where the ear buzzes so—
There is a gasp a sharp breath in a sharp wind reminding
you the wind was someone’s breath chilled.
Clouds are now fashionable as they were in John Constable’s day Luke Howard
having taxonomized the little buggers in 1803: cumulus, cirrus, etc.
So let’s go skying with Constable let’s scan
the horizon as if we were sailors
able to read the sky       Let's blast off 
and outsoar the noctilucent clouds
I espy with my little stratospheric eye.
Do you think I’m afraid of crashing to earth?
Love we’ve been falling ever since falling made way for a leap. 

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