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Mesozoic Menu

The electroencephalograph
detects three
distinct patterns
of electrical activity --
waking...
         sleeping...                     
                        d     r    e    a    m    i    n    g

waking the only state
which doesn't make the animal
vulnerable in the extreme.
Natural selection
should have opted not to sleep,
but the state is so very ancient
perhaps even reptiles dare to dream

though it renders animals
so powerfully immobile
and unresponsive to outside stimuli
that ocean-living mammals hardly sleep at all
because they have no place to hide.
In fact, in the open ocean
sleep could equal suicide!

But ... rather than increase mammals' vulnerability,
could sleep have evolved to extend their longevity?

Prey animals have shallow, dreamless sleep.
Predators dream as though they know they're safe.
But animals we know today as predators
might have had ancestors who used to be prey.

Baby mammals may have played noisily
even at times of considerable risk
when their mothers went out to hunt.
Sleep's immobilization would have ended this.

Even Leo, King of Beasts, may have descended
from far more vulnerable predecessors
or before becoming royalty
feared even more formidable predators.

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Mammals arose in an epoch
during days which were dominated
by the hair-raising hiSSSSSSSSSing
               of THUNderous
                               MURderous
                                        carNIVorous
cold-blooded, bone-chilling
altogether HIDeous

          REPTILES

which, except in the tropics,
are subject to nocturnal immobility,
so the night, for warm-blooded animals,
was alive with developmental possibilities
since the nocturnal, non-tropical
ecological niches were surely vacant,
mammals were able to move into them
and develop supremely sophisticated
senses of hearing, smell and sight,
evolution's gift given for surviving
uncountable, cold dark Mesozoic nights.

So it may have been essential for them
to remain immobilized and hidden
during the late Mesozoic days
ruled by giGANtic predatory lizards.

Reptiles were the Lords of the Day.
Mammals scurried about by night,
preying alternately on one another
in a carefully-choreographed primordial fight.

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Proto mammals posed a deadly threat
to lethargic reptiles during the night,
and by gobbling up their buried eggs
may have accelerated dinosaurial demise.

If not for the extinction of dinosaurs,
descendants of Saurornithoides
might be Earth's dominant life form today
wondering what would have happened
had mammals destroyed them.

But with dinosaur extinction
the daytime hours became benevolent
and compulsory daytime sleep
for mammals was suddenly irrelevant.

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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).

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