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Head’s Up poetry column: Why LaMarck Became Extinct


“Acquisitions wrought by nature and preserved by


— Lamarck, Philosophie Zoologique

Deep in the sleepy fields of August,

Who’s making that chirr—cicadas or locusts?

And who’s that, eating the buzzing bugs—

Mr. Toad or Mrs. Frog?

And who’s the bird with the frog in his throat?

Is it a heron or is it a stork?

In this whirl of a world that so often confuses,

Here’s a helpful fact:

Porpoises have rounded noses.

Dolphins have a beak.

That settles that, right off the bat,

But one more fact won’t hurt us:

All tortoises are turtles, but

Not every turtle’s a tortoise.

We’re on the spot, Free Will or not:

We may think it bathetic,

But the shape we’ve got was not begot

By choice—it’s all genetic.

Our torsos may not be immortal,

But wishing will never usurp us.

Moral: a dolphin can never turn turtle,

And you can’t be a tortoise on porpoise.