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Address: The Archaeans, One Cell Creatures

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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

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

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Address: The Archaeans, One Cell Creatures

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