Umwelt


Some days it’s all about limitations,
And while it’s no use complaining,
That’s never stopped me before.

I feel like a blind man living inside a kaleidoscope;
A glutton with but one taste bud left;
A monk who’s forgotten what he knew of God;
A tin-eared drunk waking up just as angels
burst across the heavens in song.
I’m a coma patient wrapped in wool,
strapped in a closet in a blackened room
in the back of the basement.

The blind tick only cares for butyric acid’s smell,
and the exact temperature of blood.
Then it falls into blackness, hoping
it will land on the fur,
feed on the blood of a passing deer.
It can smell butyric on mammals’ fur,
and sense just the temperature of blood,
which is exactly 37 degrees Celsius.

The small part of the world it senses
is its umwelt. Nothing else is real to it.
Nothing else needs to be.

For the black ghost knifefish, it’s electrical fields.
For the echolocating bat, it’s air-compression waves.

For us, it’s a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum
our eyes are adapted to see, the wavelengths
that have the highest energy in sunlight.
The colors of ripening fruit and food, as it happens.

Our other senses are just good enough to get by.
We can’t compete with a bloodhound’s
olfactory genius; we’re pitiful in that department.
Such is our umwelt. We sense a tiny sliver of the world.
We don’t know anything beyond our reality,
Our umwelt, out of which we construct everything
like a sacred myth, what we think we know, but do not.

 

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