The Mental Life of Plants and Worms (Written December 15, 2017)

The Mental Life of Plants and Worms

I couldn’t stop yawning.
I wasn’t bored, no, no,
that wasn’t it. How could I
be bored, when every day

We had something new,
an appointment to keep,
a friend to meet,
a book to read,
a movie to watch.

I was a little tired, I’ll admit,
but not unusually so.
I’d had a good night’s sleep,
and woke to a vivid dream,
in which I was in my old

Bookstore, talking to a customer,
deploring the sad state of affairs,
the paucity of quality paperbacks,
when in walked a young writer,
in town for a festival of authors,

Searching for a book by somebody
called Stuart A. Guest, whom I’d frankly
never heard of before. Or maybe
it was Stuart N. Guest, he wasn’t sure.
I was very sorry, I said, at which point

The promising young writer
disappeared behind a stack of books,
then reappeared, just as suddenly,
with a copy of the book by the author
he was looking for, the title of which,

Once I’d registered it, I promptly
forgot. I couldn’t stop yawning.
Maybe I’d had too much to eat,
but no, that wasn’t it. I’d had
a plate of linguini, with a meat

And tomato sauce, topped with
grated cheddar cheese. A modest
helping, nothing extravagant.
A glass of red wine. Frozen yogurt
for dessert, with rasberries. Maybe

I wasn’t getting enough oxygen,
it was so cold out and the wind blew
through the cracks around the windows
and the doors and the furnace ran
almost non-stop, pumping out

Hot, dry air. Or maybe the book
she was reading to me, which I
had welcomed at first, was about
a topic I had little interest in, namely,
the mental life of plants and worms.

I thought this was stretching it a bit,
though that just shows you what I know.
Apparently, worms have a central
organizing cluster of nerve cells that functions
very much like a brain, and underlies a certain

Primitive form of intelligence. Well,
maybe it’s true. I couldn’t stop yawning.
Annoyed, she said, why don’t you
go to bed, we’ll talk about it tomorrow.

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