a primordial sequence


THE OXYGEN MAKERS

Stromatolites in Shark Bay, Western Australia

Midday, water’s edge

Don’t take breathing for granted;

it hasn’t always been so easy.

The fresh twenty-one percent we live on

was made by these slimy cyan domes

over billions of silent years, puff by puff.

Somewhere we’ve failed, made it all go wrong;

but these patient workers could do it all again.

Late afternoon, ankle deep

I throw my phone in the warm shallow water;

I could never tell you what it is I see.

I throw in my watch; counting seconds is pointless

where nothing has changed since before there were fish.

I throw in my keys; the iron they are made of

was oxidised by these round turbines

while the air was still rank from creation.

I throw in my sunglasses; without these domes

there never would have been an ozone layer.

Early evening, knee deep

I’m not afraid to go further out

into the maternal warmth of the water

that wraps my legs like a birth blanket;

the plesiosaurs stay far away

from these extra salty shallows.

A pterodactyl kite shadow flits

across my shoulder, flying on

to better hunting. I breathe deep;

the air is richer than you’ll ever know,

our twenty-one percent tastes more like thirty

in the dense Cretaceous heat.

Sunset, floating face down

I am as old and as young as the domes;

there is still so much to do to change the world.

My back soaks up the late Pre-Cambrian sun

just as they do but there is so little life

in the air, so little; all we need is time.

Published in Beir Bua

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