Friday, January 07, 2011

Science Poems for January 2011: 7

Last April I posted a science sonnet a day in celebration of National Poetry Month (index with links here). This January I am posting a science poem a day, written in various traditional forms, in honor of Science Online 2011.

The "fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web" occurs Jan. 13-16, 2011. Click on the logo below to access their daily digest (already active) on

As with the sonnets, my January poems take their cues from science-based articles. I also have two works in a special science poem section (vol. 33 #5/6) of Star*Line, journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can read my "Ciliate Sestina" here.

Today's poem takes its cue from "Young'uns adrift on the sea" (Susan Milius, Science News, Jan. 15, 2011 issue) based on "Coral Larvae Move toward Reef Sounds" (Mark J. A. Vermeij et al., PLoS ONE, May 14, 2010). Click on the article links to learn more about the research. To learn more about the traditional poetic structure used, click on the form name below the title.

Tiny Captains
(Form: Sapphic)

Current-carried, transiting ocean layers
far from safety, floating in open waters,
larvae stretching less than a millimeter
make their own choices.

Sounds from home, a settlement substrate calling,
echo from a habitat in the distance.
Down a stream or upcurrent, doesn't matter.
Coral can hear them.

Who had known invertebrates sought to follow
more than plumes of chemical compounds, more than
phosphor trails emblazoned upon the waves? Who
knew of their travels?

Calls of fish and crackles and snaps of shrimp are
played through speakers sunken beneath the surface.
Larvae kept in mesh-covered chambers cluster
close to the signal.

Siren song entices the smallest sailors
drawn to tones above all the tubes that hold them,
opposite their habit of sinking downward,
nature up-ended.

Reef notes reach, a beacon for coral larvae.
Pressure changes, particle motion, something
guides them to the skeletons of the polyps
they are becoming.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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