Perfect Machine

by David P. Stern


    There is a cat
    In Goddard Space Flight Center
    And I don't know
    How it got past the guards
    Or squeezed through a gap
    In the chain link fence
    Or perhaps was brought hither
    By some misguided Human
    To prowl through the snowy forest
    To stalk luckless squirrels
    And birds benumbed by the cold.

    While we
    Snug in brick-faced strongholds
    Build fluxgate magnetometers
    To probe distant Jupiter, Saturn
    And heterodyne photon detectors
    To analyze chemical fragments
    Where no life could ever endure
    To further extend human knowledge
    To probe space and ever learn more.

    The cat, too,
    Has exquisite sensors
    Green eye-slits the better to see you with
    Sharp claws the better to pounce on you
    The software and hardware of nature
    Integrated to a perfection.

    And one hundred years may have gone by
    The buildings are gone and decayed
    Our marvelous clever achievements
    Are in the textbooks. They are the stuff
    Schoolchildren study for tests
    And never ask why, or how come--
    The book says so, it must be true.
    The chain fence is mere rusty powder
    Only the trees are the same
    The trees and the snow
    And the cat
    Crafty dark hunter of feather and fur
    Stalking--as it always has done.

    7 March 1978


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Author and Curator:   Dr. David P. Stern
     Mail to Dr.Stern:   david("at" symbol) .

Last updated 15 May 2002