Nature knows nothing of death.
Not in the cat's lazy smug meeeeooow
not in the antelope's mad kick
as the lion makes it's meal.
Neither in the tidal lifting of a sluggish sea
by a star's blunt gradients,
nor a flowers nod, an insects frantic dance.
Live is all the world ever says.
Of alternatives it lies mute.
But ponder aliens lounging in lattices,
of ancient ice-cased memories
from the first beings, born beneath
Suns now gone to shot and scatteration.
they have forgotton birth and,
sheltered in cool cubits, face no end.
If we meet them they will see
bags of ropy guts
skin shiny with grease
food stuck between our teeth
in our rush from interrupted breakfast
Moving garbage, yellow fat jammed between brittle calcium rods, stringy muscles
clenthing, stretching to make the puppet cage
of bones yearn forward.
In our bookstores there are texts
on dying's art, a new kind of skill
we must learn: the six stages
(rejection of news;depression; calm plateau;
world-gobbing; slide; will to go).
we are works in progress,
suspended between the mouse's unsuspecting struggle
and promises of crystalline infinities,
these aliens, then, are as animals.
Only in us and our unending forward tilt
can death live,
Each sharp moment is free.
and all that could happen
might yet be.
Copyright Gregory Benford 1988