March 8, 2016



At just first light in surge and drift,
Within the darkling seas,
In sheaves they swirl -- as winter mist
Evaporates in trees.

I show you here one diatom.
God's smallest lamp of glass and oil,
Suspended in our ancient seas,
Then frozen far beneath our soil.

Beneath our star these diatomes,
Misprisoned cells of oil in glass,
In drifts descended into sand,
And melted stone while eons pass.

Within such stone they liquify,
And flow in streams through granite glades
To slumber in their vaults of pearl,
And dreaming dream the dreams of shades.

Awakened soul and substance now
What dwelt in seas then leaps to fly.
We see their shadows, cold as mist,
When contrails sketch our frozen sky.

I show you here a diatom,
God's smallest lamp of glass and oil,
That keeps us in mid-heaven safe
And warm above our winter's soil.

In life's first dawn they scintillate
And merge in death to darkened stone.
In sheaves they fade into the mist...
Unplanned? Unsought? Unmourned?

I show you here one diatom.


Posted by Vanderleun at March 8, 2016 9:59 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

If science were always this beautifully poetic, I'd have paid more attention to science. Thanks for the excellent poem, Gerard.

Posted by: Cameron Wood at February 16, 2010 1:27 AM

Cameron Wood

It was not science that described this delightful example of Universal structure and its implications; it was the poet and his art. The scientist merely exposed it, with the aid of the mechanic and the technician. We can trust the poet. The question that you perhaps pose, though, is which employs the most guile to enlighten (or deceive) the innocent and ignorant? The answer - I suppose - depends on which scientist and which poet. 'Twas ever thus and ever will be.

On this occasion my thanks to both but my vote to the poet.

Posted by: Frank P at February 16, 2010 5:09 AM

Thanks, Gereard. This is a fine example of remystifying the dryasdust scientific discovery, thereby breathing life back into a tiny piece of discovered beauty.

Posted by: Julie at February 16, 2010 8:08 AM

But science isn't dry as dust. That's part of the point of the poem. It's more like it's so exciting we can't handle it....

Diatomaceous earth is also a really great killer of cockroaches. It cuts them when they walk over it. And so, the fragile shells of the tiniest of creatures become slayers of one of the most enduring things alive.

Posted by: Maureen at February 16, 2010 9:27 AM

Frank P:

. . . the hell?

I know yours is a friendly tweak (at least I hope so), so let me tweak back (with a smile) by saying that I was complimenting Gerard's poem, and saying that if more science were thus artistically presented, more science would capture more of my terribly-divided attention. That the physical world - of the obviously visible variety and the kind we need special lenses for - is inherently beautiful is a notion I assumed didn't need pointing out.


Posted by: Cameron Wood at February 16, 2010 10:05 AM

Cameron, I'd like to second that, since I was trying to make a very similar point :)

Posted by: Julie at February 16, 2010 10:28 AM

But also, I must agree with Frank. You both made excellent points.

And Maureen, by "dryasdust" I was thinking of many of the science classes I've taken over the years. After a while, dissecting, numbering labeling; reducing the whole of a creature to its constituent parts, its quantities, its locations; focusing on how to catalog such and such a creature; all of that can serve to make one forget that its very isness is still a great and fantastic mystery, and though we dissect it down to its very atomic structure there is still much about it that is impossible to know.

I love science, and agree that it is exciting. I love it more when the science and the life work together to bring one into the mysteries even as details are revealed. That is what Gerard has done here, imho.

Posted by: Julie at February 16, 2010 10:38 AM

Thanks everyone. But I have to confess I was having so many problems with it that I had to hire a consulting poet. Not to write it but to take a crack at the same concept with no input from me other than a definition. Cost me 15 bucks but was well worth it. It also let me say, "I've had to hire a poet."

But that's another tale for another time.

Posted by: vanderleun at February 16, 2010 11:03 AM

For reasons I'll keep to myself, I look forward to that tale of the consulting poet, though I suspect it may be a long wait.

Posted by: Cameron Wood at February 16, 2010 1:13 PM

Lovely poem and a most fitting object. Still it is distressing that many scientists and their students are more enthrall'd by the *process* and *methodology* than they are with the organism itself. Beetle? Birch? Pike? Who cares, we are after more fundamental fare. Organismal biology is out-- have you noticed zoology, botany, etc. have been largely subsumed under molecular or general biology in the last 20 years? In this realm the appreciation for beauty and wonder are even more difficult to come by.

Posted by: Hannon at February 17, 2010 10:49 AM

Beautiful poem, Gerard. And perfect image with it. Concur with what Julie has posted about bad science teaching putting people off, but really biology and all science(and not just the birds and the bees) is awesome, a highway to the mind and heart of God. If we but take it. The Devil the highwayman who tells us Nature is only red in tooth and claw. Or is as dreary as middle school biology with all the good bits translated into diagrams of flower parts... Which it is, but also so achingly beautiful. I keep returning to fractals as a metaphor for exploring God: the closer you get, the more infinite. Enough blather, but appreciate your reminder of the mystery and beauty at the heart of reality. I know, I know, Eliot's jaded line about "humankind cannot bear very much reality" but it isn't always true. Think of Leonardo dissecting corpses and engineering fantstic mchines and sculpting: art, science, mechanics, etc. all blended.

Posted by: retriever at February 17, 2010 9:20 PM

Cameron Wood @ 10.05am Feb 16

Not tweakin' Cameron, just sayin'! :-))
Doesn't hurt to express similar thoughts when couched in different terms from another perspective, does it? Don't be so possessive! Once you toss ideas into the blogosphere you lose ownership and risk their adaptation by lesser minds such as mine. By broadly concurring with your point (not intending to emend it, I assure you), my intention was also to implicitly thank Gerard for his work (or his paid proxy - whichever) - as one is so often obliged to do. He's The Man.

Mind you, I hope all this recent introspection and reflection doesn't in any diminish his righteous anger and delicious venom when addressing the antics of the usurers in the Temples of Washington in general and the White House in particular. Even the SOG Himself turned equivalent tables over once upon a time, we are told.

Posted by: Frank P at February 18, 2010 6:00 AM

To achieve enlightenment, that is, to be able to see the workings of the hand of God around (and more especially, within) us, is a worthy and often forgotten goal in todays materialistic world. You seem to be well on your way. The point of my writing this is to say thank you for once again helping to make the light of Genesis momentarily visible to me. I will continue trying to build the proper temple with the tools I have been given. I am always grateful when someone stops along their own way and reaches back to help someone behind them climb one step higher.

Posted by: Roger Drew Williams at February 19, 2010 1:45 AM

Utterly exquisite.

Posted by: robinstarfish at May 3, 2012 11:44 PM

Thanks for another excellent piece of work. Would it be possible for you to write a piece that would make the progressives open their minds, as though they were exposed to some type of irrefutible enlightenment?

Posted by: Roger Drew Williams at May 4, 2012 12:06 PM

That's a challenge akin to writing a poem that can drop a charging rhino at fifty yards. Let me think on it.

Posted by: vanderleun at May 4, 2012 12:42 PM