The Odds

by Peggy Schimmelman


Scientists say the odds of either of us
existing right now are slightly less
than one in 400 quadrillion
taking into account
the chances of our ancestors meeting
feeling attracted, procreating
and the subsequent chain of copulation
a series of merging egg and sperm
that resulted in the eventual, specific
but random combination of nucleotides
that created the unique specimen
that is you or I.

Yet, here we are: against the odds
yokefellows plowing life’s field together
raising babies, burying fathers
and at this moment
consuming our burgers on the Ale House patio
taking for granted each other’s company
and that of Todd, our affable waiter
who had a one in 400 quadrillion chance
of serving us lunch today

all of us pondering what’s up
with that middle-aged lady
in the cheery sundress and heart-shaped shades
who dances along the downtown streets
boom-box blaring on her shoulder
as she belts out lyrics along with Shakira
Sheryl Crow, Madonna—all of whom had
a one in 400 quadrillion chance
of being born at all, much less
of winning the pop star lottery.

What’s her story? we wonder
as she boogies past us, beaming
singing, tossing us a wave
as if she knows how lucky we are
to be alive on this earth, in this country, this city,
on this street at this exact moment in time.
Her swaying hips ask: Why not smile?
Why not dance?
Why aren’t you singing?
You have beaten the odds, after all.

Peggy Schimmelman is the poet laureate of Livermore, CA. Her work includes the poetry chapbooks Crazytown and Tick-Tock, and the novels Insomniacs, Inc. and Whippoorwills. She is co-author of Long Stories Short and Two Truths and a Lie by Wild Vine Writers. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in the North American Review, Naugatuck River Review, Peregrine,, the Aleola Journal of Poetry and Art, Pacific Review, Comstock Review, the Wild Musette,, and others.