Nature… has mixed us of clay and
flame, of brain and mind
.

---William James


Up from the mineral and mud and ore,
from mildew and bacterium
and mold and thallophyte and spore
to fungus, rust, and diatom;

from moss and fern and flowering seed
to coral, fluke, and sponge, and from
flatworm and snail and centipede
to swamp to land until we come

to mouse, to monkey—to the brain
that grew in tandem with the thumb:
To tell exactly how we came
from clay is easy. But explain
the place inside the cranium
where all that clay turns into flame.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 5, on page 37
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