I try to look at the big picture. The sun, ardent tongue licking us like a mother besotted with her new cub, will wear itself out. Everything is transitory. Think of the meteor that annihilated the dinosaurs. And before that, the volcanoes of the Permian period — all those burnt ferns and reptiles, sharks and bony fish — that was extinction on a scale that makes our losses look like a bad day at the slots. And perhaps we’re slated to ascend to some kind of intelligence that doesn’t need bodies, or clean water, or even air. But I can’t shake my longing for the last six hundred Iberian lynx with their tufted ears, Brazilian guitarfish, the 4 percent of them still cruising the seafloor, eyes staring straight up. And all the newborn marsupials — red kangaroos, joeys the size of honeybees — steelhead trout, river dolphins, so many species of frogs breathing through their damp permeable membranes. Today on the bus, a woman in a sweater the exact shade of cardinals, and her cardinal-colored bra strap, exposed on her pale shoulder, makes me ache for those bright flashes in the snow. And polar bears, the cream and amber of their fur, the long, hollow hairs through which sun slips, swallowed into their dark skin. When I get home, my son has a headache and, though he’s almost grown, asks me to sing him a song. We lie together on the lumpy couch and I warble out the old show tunes, “Night and Day”. . . “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”. . . A cheap silver chain shimmers across his throat, rising and falling with his pulse. There never was anything else. Only these excruciatingly insignificant creatures we love.
“The Big Picture” is from The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007).