Photo by David Menidrey on Unsplash

Parabolic Hyperbole and other poems of the Human Condition

What makes us human? Is it our opposable thumbs, omnivorous diet, and ability to wield tools? Our individual and collective ideological belief systems and Earth-bound nature? What about our ability to empathize and (simultaneously) our inability to and the resulting creation of “us vs. them” group dynamics? Does our violence, domination over nature, technological innovations, and need for advancement make us human or will these traits one day lead to our demise? Are we more human today than we were at the advent of homo sapiens sapiens 125,000 years ago, or less?

Parabolic Hyperbole

“The Geometry of Gravity,”
reads the card of the museum’s display
where metal spheres are leisurely launched
along the lip of a parabolic funnel.

They eddy in a sort of perpetual motion,
their descent as imperceptible as inevitable.

Early on, they collide, kissingly,
as the longer rolling elliptically hoist themselves
into intersecting orbits.
Fresher launches define their fall
with ever increasing velocity
into accelerated, deeper orbits,
more stable, circular and unique.

Their increasing forward speed
diminishes their descent
till they blur into fevered coils
hung stationary at the funnel’s neck.

They vibrate aggressively
into ghosts that vanish into the mechanism
that invisibly replaces each along the lip
of this metaphoric model of the human condition.

Hangers On

We clutch old beliefs as though unable
to release them — stalwart, tragic hoarders,
eclectically cluttered with rote teaching,
living lives according to folk fable,
where “great again” means within walled borders,
where those impeached are still overreaching.

Despite all that science has provided —
health, comfort and how we negotiate —
most place more trust in prayed for miracles.

Today, and locally, some misguided
surgeon is preparing to trepanate
the evil spirits out of patients’ skulls.

A third of us gaze blankly past truth’s eye,
preferring to chant and rally the lie.

So Obvious

Those who understand
never seem to fully grasp
how others cannot.

“Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise Land,” by Marc Chagall

The Anonymous Angel

After Adam and Eve
were asked to leave
what was to be mankind’s ancestral home,
to guarantee
these refugees would grieve
and not wander back,
but forever roam,
God granted a dedicated minion —
one unrelenting, imposing and fierce —
authority and total dominion
of the border even our sight can’t pierce.

But who’s this “angel with a flaming sword,”
who was permanently placed at the gate
to guard the garden of the Holy Lord,
Sentry of Eden, Sealer of Our Fate?

Although the Bible doesn’t really tell,
I’d wager that his name’s Industriel.

Potential Road Kill

We’ve grown beyond our own biology.
Natures’ slow process of evolution
cannot keep pace with our technology
but needs generations for solution.
As we refine our new machinery,
We redefine the world and way we live.
We redesign our planet’s greenery,
and undermine a balance tentative —
the tipping point that we are now upon
to heal our oceans and our atmosphere.
However, we won’t leave the road we’re on
but stand helpless, immobilized by fear,
like deer in headlights, denying science,
flash frozen by fossil fuel reliance.


James Ph. Kotsybar, repeatedly chosen for NASA’s special recognition, is the first poet published to another planet aboard NASA’s Mars orbiting MAVEN spacecraft, appears in the Hubble Space Telescope’s mission log, and was awarded and featured at NASA’s Centaur Art Challenge at IngenuityFest, Ohio.

Invited by the president of the European Academy of Sciences Arts and Letters in 2018, he performed his poetry before an international audience of scientists and Troubadours (Europe’s oldest poetic institution) in their founding city of Toulouse, France, at the EuroScience Open Forum, earning a standing return invitation.

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