Intellect Means Choosing Between

By Stephen Kampa

Unsold on any afterlife,
     Unmoved by thoughts of will,
You’ve started celebrating nature’s
     Aleatory skill
As manifest in, first and foremost,
     You and your family,
Genus, and species, but also in
     The famous profligacy
Of beetles or the useful hodgepodge
     Of hedgehog quills, squid ink,
And wasp nests shaped from proto-paper;
     At times, you almost think


This mindless cosmic conversation
     Knit of genetic patter
Bespeaks a pattern too contrived
     For matter not to matter—
Substance has substance, you might say—
     And you suspect the drift
Of tides (both nucleo- and not)
     Betrays an unlikely gift;
Amazed by the gut-retching sea
     Cucumber, anglerfish
Dangling bright lures, oceans awash
     With awe, you almost wish


(If neurochemistry and chains of
     Said cause to said effect
Could be so called) you could express
     How fine your intellect
Finds chaos grown to cosmic gambol;
     And, almost moved to praise,
You wonder whom you’d give the credit,
     Uncertain how to phrase
Such unobjective gratitude.
     You think, you thank—almost—
Then choose to give it up to chance,
     Of which you have no ghost.

Stephen Kampa is the author of three books of poetry: Cracks in the InvisibleBachelor Pad, and Articulate as Rain. His work also appears in Best American Poetry 2018. He teaches at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, FL.