I haven’t featured any compositions by the freethinking poet Philip Appleman lately, so with this edition of Poetry Sunday, I intend to address that. This is an especially lovely piece by Prof. Appleman from the November 2007 edition of the FFRF’s newsletter Freethought Today, one I’ve been wanting to reprint on Daylight Atheism for some time. Whom can an atheist thank for the good fortune in their life, if not a deity? This poem suggests an answer to that question.
Philip Appleman is the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Department of English at Indiana State University, the author of seven volumes of poetry and numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including the widely used Norton Critical Edition, Darwin. His poetry has won many awards, including a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education, and the Humanist Arts Award of the American Humanist Association. His work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, and elsewhere. His latest book is New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996.
O let us give thanks for the glorious spasm
that spurted atoms on an endless quest
for the far edge of everything, let’s
praise the ancient heave and buckle,
the burn, blister, and boil
that birthed our blue-green planet,
be grateful for the lucky spark
that seasoned our primal soup,
and honor the ultimate sacrifice
of the creeping pioneers
who dragged us up onto dry land.
Let’s be thankful for the heroism
of all those fallen fathers
who bequeathed to us these novelties,
our clever arms and legs,
thankful too for the company
of moles and manatees, sloths and seals,
horses and hedgehogs – and thankful for
the monkeys, gibbons, and gorillas
who once upon a time set off
on gambles of their own, aping our long,
long hunger, vines
choking trees to reach the sun,
predators lurking at water holes.
Now, somewhere out there, the atoms race on,
still searching for the edge of everything,
but here, snug in our tundra and grassland,
our forest and savanna, let us thank
the furry ancestors who brought us
along this way, and now stay at our side
as we press on to some great adventure
just beyond our dreams.
Other posts in this series: