Museum replica of Viking burial inside a ship as coffin
Found in their graves
From ancient times old,
All they possessed
In silver and gold.
Their weapons and tools
And their finest clothes
Would somehow transcend
To follow their souls.
This marks us as human –
Where our bodies lie
The pollen of flowers
Bloomed over goodbyes.
What will you take
With you when you die?
To a hole in the earth
That leads to the sky?
By Kate Rauner
All my books, including collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. The second edition of Rhyme and Reason is available now – newly expanded with more poems from physics, biology, learning, and more. Now on Amazon and all your favorite on-line stores.
There are so many archeological studies of burials it’s hard to pick one, but a recent article inspired this poem. Read about a Neanderthal flower burial – maybe – at wikipedia.org
The deceased lies before them,
The crowd is all in black.
They’re watching for the villain
Who may be coming back.
It’s not known if they’re mourning,
They do not shed a tear.
They watch and they remember
In anger what to fear.
Humans are unusual
In tending to their dead.
And porpoises, it’s said,
Will touch and groom,
But do they soon forget?
Only corvids, of the birds,
Gather for a wake.
As crows attend a murdered friend
Plan vengeance they will take.
By Kate Rauner
Thanks to livescience.com. I’ve seen heart-breaking videos of elephants grooming a dead herd mate – especially a mother with a dead baby. I believe they mourn. My llamas don’t seem to react much to a dead herd mate’s body, but I’ve watched them search for a missing friend.
Another crow poem: Crow and Pitcher
All my books, including collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.
Fountain of Eternal Life, Cleveland, Ohio
Everyone is going to die. That’s not the “good thing,” just inevitable. Medicine and public health efforts have defeated many common causes of death, at least in wealthier countries. We don’t die from the traditional childhood diseases like measles. Smallpox is gone and India is about to be declared free of polio. Less and less is the flu, bubonic plague, even AIDS a massive killer. With reduced cigarette smoking, life expectancy has gone up. Hearts can be repaired and we see deaths from heart disease decline. Overweight contributes to heart disease and is still fairly intractable, but I hope we’ll make progress there, too. Why is cancer still our bane?
Cancer is a large category of diseases. Some are easier to attack than others. Recent discoveries reveal that one cancer in five seems to be caused by bacteria or viruses. As the vaccine against human papilloma virus shows, we are defeating these cancers. Some cancers are caused by synthetic chemicals. While this source is surprisingly small, better understanding and regulation will reduce it as a cause. There is encouraging progress fighting childhood and early-stage cancers. They can often be held off indefinitely.
But cancer is the flip-side of being alive. As pointed out by George Johnson at http://nyti.ms/1kv90ty,
For most cancers the only identifiable cause is entropy, the random genetic mutations that are an inevitable part of multicellular life.” In other words, aging.
A colony of symbiotic cells – that’s the arresting image of what each of us is. Each type of cell is too specialized today to live independently, but each still retains the ability to evolve. When a group of cells starts to out-compete the rest of its body’s ecosystem, it’s a cancer.
So if you live long enough and outwit the other causes of death, cancer is what will get you in the end. But not for a very long time. That’s why it’s a good thing.
For another promising (not yet proven!) way to outwit cancer, see this post.