Address: the Archaeans, One Cell Creatures

By Pattiann Rogers b. 1940 Pattiann Rogers
Although most are totally naked   
and too scant for even the slightest   
color and although they have no voice   
that I’ve ever heard for cry or song, they are,   
nevertheless, more than mirage, more   
than hallucination, more than falsehood.   

They have confronted sulfuric   
boiling black sea bottoms and stayed,      
held on under ten tons of polar ice,   
established themselves in dense salts   
and acids, survived eating metal ions.   
They are more committed than oblivion,   
more prolific than stars.   

Far too ancient for scripture, each   
one bears in its one cell one text—   
the first whit of alpha, the first   
jot of bearing, beneath the riling   
sun the first nourishing of self.      

Too lavish for saints, too trifling   
for baptism, they have existed   
throughout never gaining girth enough   
to hold a firm hope of salvation.   
Too meager in heart for compassion,   
too lean for tears, less in substance   
than sacrifice, not one has ever   
carried a cross anywhere.   

And not one of their trillions   
has ever been given a tombstone.   
I’ve never noticed a lessening   
of light in the ceasing of any one   
of them. They are more mutable   
than mere breathing and vanishing,   
more mysterious than resurrection,   
too minimal for death.

Source: Poetry (September 2005).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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September 2005
 Pattiann  Rogers


Pattiann Rogers was born in Joplin, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and went to the University of Houston where she earned an M.A. in creative writing. Her awards and honors also include two National Endowment for the Arts grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, Poetry’s Tietjens and Bess Hokin Prizes, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, the Strousse Award . . .

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