Poem: ‘Lesson from the West African Lungfish (Protopterus annectens)’

Science in meter and verse

Credit:

Joel Sartore National Geographic Photo Ark

Edited by Dava Sobel

In a year of panic, envy

any creature who estivates

in the heat. Line a cavity

with mucus & hunker down.

A bunker hardens around you.

Watch the river shrivel

without worry. In the 1950s,

humans dug up backyards,

poured concrete, stocked

canned goods. The lungfish

feeds not off Spam but from

its own muscle, digests

itself into slime & vitamin.

When the rivers flood again,

emerge from your opposite

hibernation. Your legs don’t walk,

but they taste. Masticate, mash,

gulp, slurp. Scientists say

you are in a constant state

of agitation, but they are just

jealous. They too want to touch

everything again. To pull

themselves from the muck

& mire. They watch you

gulp a goldfish. Exhale orange

flakes. Swim between stars

in this little galaxy, the one

you built wholly from yourself.


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