The little ball went round its star
four billion times before
the higher forms took charge.
The first three billion cycles
yielded countless specks of life
in the planet’s seas,
and some evolved to spit out oxygen
that poisoned weaker forms of life.
But life survived.
In near a billion circuits more
life-forms learned to swim and crawl;
leafy plants took hold
and tiny beasts—safe in their shells—
gorged on others on the briny floor.
Then in a fraction of a billion turns
some creatures walked the solid land,
and with four billion cycles nearly reached,
animals with brains built nests and little clans.
In just another bit of time
forms of life with giant brains
evolved to organize their lives
for warmth and storing food by building homes.
In a few more circuits
of the ball around its star,
they shaped language, trade and art,
and paired with these some harsher skills—
enslaving others like their own
and making tools for dealing death.
Now a giant horde,
the brilliant ones made mighty states
and just as often made great wars.
In the latest hundred turns
of the ball around its star
clever fusion weapons nearly
wiped the brainy creatures off the globe
and reset life a billion circuits back.
By wisdom or by stupid luck,
in the billions they endured
to study other stars
and stretch a trillion data
links in webs around their globe.
And, discounting many forms of life,
they fouled the ball, their only home,
they taught each other how to hate
and crafted walls of fear.
Now in charge, the brilliant horde
teeters on the edge.
Maybe they will learn at last
the smallness of their globe,
and stall the ruin just ahead.
Or maybe they’ll be small of mind,
and in their grasping let
civil life and earth itself
slip through their fingers like the sand.