A Carbon Sea Scene

Art Courtesy of Sophia Zhao

Wrought into a cycle,

carbon schleps from one stop

to the next. Perhaps I recall it

swept along the atmosphere, or

gathered by the ground. 

But in this primordial painting, 

lumbering green bacteria 

nose for warmth in the ocean,

their cellular frames tousling the tides.

Eventually, they dissolve 

like salt, and carbon stretches 

down to retire under the sand. And in 

this dizzying deepsea, the muddy 

seafloor, slumbering beneath 

carbon’s gray lines like a shutter 

over the dark, unsheathes 

the largest passage.

Slate-streaked rocks from the byway

pull open their pores. Quietly, 

I watch as carbon rolls out 

toward the surface.

Artist’s Statement

I wanted to convey research’s brilliant ability to shift preconceived notions through my poem, “A Carbon Sea Scene,” which offers a window into the findings of Lidya Tarhan, Jiyuan Wang, and their colleagues recently published in Nature. Inspired by their stepwise discovery of an abiotic deep-sea carbon sink, I aimed to depict my own gradual understanding of their research by crafting a metaphoric “painting” representative of their study. To draw out the beauty of the authors’ breakthrough, I relied on a poetic structure that “streche[d] down” the page—much like how the carbon cycle transcends depth—to emphasize the rich information that the deepest waters hold. Phrases such as “tousling the tides” and “seafloor, slumbering” maintain a steady rhythm that crescendos with “pull open their pores”—the most pivotal moment of this poem, and ultimately, the research of Tarhan, Wang, and their colleagues.