How many miles into the earth
would we have to dig to find true stillness,
free from all taint of life?
Some bacteria can thrive solely
on the energy from radioactive decay,
know nothing of oxygen, & persist
as a single-species ecosystem,
alone in their subterranean cosmos.
We’ve come to learn a full half
of the total mass of life on earth
dwells underground or beneath
the ocean floor. So thoroughly have
we infected the planet, it might
never be rid of us, the poor thing,
burdened as it is with a barren mate
that remains untainted by its contagion,
circling at a safe distance
& summoning with a regular tug
that we like to think is somehow
meant for us.
It’s always a fun challenge to try to work such utterly geeky material into a poem. The bacteria mentioned is Desulforudis audaxviator — see “Real Life Journey To The Center Of The Earth Finds First Ecosystem With A Single Species” in Science 2.0. (Be sure to click on the photo if you can’t read the inscription on the gravestone.)