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Biopoetics: Dicotyledons

First published in Mind Murals, page 10, Spring 2016. Listen to it read aloud here.

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Photo by George Wesley and Bonita Dannells entitled ‘Maple seeds – the samara’ (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic), link through photo

The poem is the only shape poem I’ve ever attempted, but I was inspired by the uniquely beautiful shape of the double samara – the ‘helicopter’ fruit. These seeds are characteristic of dicots (short for dicotyledons), so named because they have two (di) cotyledons (small leaves inside the seed that are the first “leaves” to appear after germination).

In sugar maples, these cotyledons store food/nutrients for the seed and, once the seed germinates, photosynthesize until true leaves can grow. I feel the poem is a bit misleading (unintentionally) where it says ‘abs orb nutrients’; I meant only that nutrients were packed into the cotyledons as they were formed – that they absorbed nutrients as the fruit grew. I learned later that some monocots (mono = one cotyledon) actually have cotyledons that absorb food stored elsewhere in the completely formed seed. In comparison to the story of monocots, I feel this line could be easily misconstrued.

When the germinated seedling gains its first true leaves, they appear broad and almost rounded compared to the cotyledons thinness and do not yet have the class sugar maple leaf shape. Following the left side of the poem, we learn that sugar maple seedlings can germinate in a thick layer of ‘humus’. Humus is a dark soil composed of decaying plant and animal matter, making it nutrient rich and good at retaining moisture while also remaining well-drained. It’s generally considered an excellent soil type for sugar maple growth.

Following the right side of the poem, we see the seed germinating. The radicle “root” is the first part of the seedling to emerge during germination. The radicle pushes down through the seed coat and snakes through the soil to find water and set up a root system, eventually growing large enough to be the tree’s ‘tap root’. The radicle grows via its apical meristem (a region of actively dividing cells that grows the tips of shoots and roots) at its tip, helping it to bury deep into the soil and look for water. This water allows for the rise of other tissues as the seedling grows larger (like true leaves, sweet for their photosynthetic production of carbohydrates). Each seed generates one radicle root and it is white in color since, like other roots, it stays underground and does not photosynthesize.

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Biopoetics: Acerum on Fomalhaut b

Public domain/Denny David, link through photo
Public domain/Denny David, link through photo

A big thank you to The Trumpeter for publishing this poem here (listen to it here).

This biopoetics may be a bit of a cop-out but there is a reason for it – promise!

This poem was the beginning. My first – ever – poem that combined science and poetry. What you see in this poem is something that desperately needs unpacking; something beautiful on its own, which gains additional power upon explanation. So why won’t I explain it?

I have. Acerum on Fomalhaut b was the inspiration for the following poems (with their biopoetics linked if available):

Acer saccharum

Dicotyledons

Deepnight

Sapriver

Budbreak

Windborne

Sunleaves

I: Seedling

I: Matured

And several additional poems in the sugar maple cycle, which were in turn inspired by the poems listed above.

It is important to note that I have been working on unpacking this poem since December of 2015, but have still only unpacked half of the poem in total. The left side of the poem tells the story of a bright planet in our screaming universe – Fomalhaut b.  This side weaves in and out of the right, the story of Acer saccharum – or the sugar maple tree. It is the sugar maple side of the story that I have had the chance to unpack and tell so far in my two years of working on this project. Admittedly, I may have gotten a bit stuck on the sugar maples…oops!

I hope that, reading this poem, you can appreciate the two threads as they come in and out of focus – the way our teeming, lively trees on earth can both parallel and juxtapose the vast emptiness of our universe, the way a planet, a star, or a tree is born, lives, or dies. And I hope the ever-growing web of poems that surrounds this smattering of words helps you appreciate those patterns in a poetic, and a scientific, way.

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Biopoetics: Windborne

Photo by George Wesley and Bonita Dannells entitled ‘Maple seeds – the samara’ (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic), link through photo
Photo by George Wesley and Bonita Dannells entitled ‘Maple seeds – the samara’ (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic), link through photo

A huge thank you to Crab Fat Magazine for publishing this poem; you can read it here, see the form here, or listen to me read it here.

Windborne is another poem in my sugar maple cycle; when I first began working on this poetry series and thinking about trees more deeply, I came to the conclusion that trees wouldn’t obey our seasons. So I created what I thought were important ‘seasons’ for trees: Sunleaves, Deepnight, Sapriver, Budbreak, and Windborne. Windborne occurs as the trees begin to let loose their seeds (known as samaras, or helicopters), allowing for them to be carried on the wind across the land (this is known as anemochory).

In Budbreak, adult sugar maples that are at least 22 years old begin to produce leaves and flowers; these flowers cover the entire crown of the tree and contain both male and female parts. However, within a particular flower, only one sex will be functional – even though each tree will contain both sexes of flowers. Sugar maple pollen is carried by the wind from male to female flowers, fertilizing the ovules within the female flowers that will ripen into seeds over the next sixteen or so weeks. Each double samara (two wings) generally contains one seed which is ripe and ready when it turns a nice green color. Over the next two weeks, the ripened samaras will fall – leaving a pit in their coat, called the hilum, where they were once attached to the tree. The shape of the double samara and the size of the ‘wings’ allow samaras to be carried at least 100m!

Seeds are packed with their own food source (the endosperm) to help fuel the plant embryo’s growth. The embryo has several important parts – the plumule (rudimentary shoot), a radicle root that will emerge first upon germination to reach water through the leaf litter, and the first leaves, or cotyledons. In sugar maples (dicotyledons) there are two of them, which I wrote more about here in the Biopoetics for my poem “Dicotyledons”. Seeds typically have only a year to germinate before losing viability so it’s critical they land in a welcoming, wet environment. Seeds that are carried by the wind to extremely dry areas, rocks, or other inhospitable places will likely never germinate – which is why adult trees produce so many samaras. One year in Michigan, 8.56 million samaras/acre were recorded!

Check out the link of the photo, where the photographer has provided a few more maple seed facts in the description!

Main Source:

https://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/acer/saccharum.htm

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Poetry

Vine Forest, Wayne PA
Photo credit: Meghan Barrett

Sugar Maple Cycle:

Acerum on Fomalhaut b – published in 2017, The Trumpeter, pg 200-201 (hear it, biopoetics)

Acer saccharum – published in 2017Palaver Magazine, page 74 (hear it, biopoetics)

Dicotyledons – published in 2016, Mind Murals Magazine, page 10 (hear it, biopoetics)

Deepnight – published in 2017Palaver Magazine, page 75 (hear it, biopoetics)

Sapriver – published in 2017Five:2:One Magazine, Issue 15 (hear itsee the poem’s formbiopoetics)

Budbreak – published in 2017The Waggle, Issue 5 (hear it, biopoetics)

Windborne – published in 2017Crab Fat Magazine (hear it, see the poem’s form, biopoetics)

Sunleaves – published in 2016, Gandy Dancer Magazine 4.2 (hear it, biopoetics)

I: Seedling – published in 2016, Mind Murals Magazine, page 9 (hear it, biopoetics)

I: Matured – published in 2016, Mind Murals Magazine,  page 11 (hear it, biopoetics)

Comma after Late Budbreak, Defoliation by an Invasive Pear – published in 2017, The Trumpeter, pg 298-9 (hear it, biopoetics)

Ashenhalted II – published in 2016Firefly Magazine, pages 8-9 (hear it, biopoetics)

Dirty – published in 2017, The Trumpeter, pg 195-7 (hear it, biopoetics)

“Drill” – published in 2017, Frankenstein’s Review, page 11 (hear it, biopoetics)

Found Poetry from Scientific Peer Reviewed Journal Articles:

Strawberry compositions – published in 2016, UnLost Magazine, find the journal article it was found in here (hear it, biopoetics)

Honeybee dance evolution from Apis florea to Apis mellifera – published in 2016Slag Review, find the journal article it was found in here (hear it, biopoetics); Republished in 2017, Frankenstein’s Review

Body Volume – published in 2016Slag Review, find the journal article it was found in here (hear it, biopoetics)

Input Segregation – published in 2017, Palaver Magazine, page 79, find the journal article it was found in here (hear it, biopoetics)

Marine Life Cycle:

Crassostrea virginica – published in 2016all the sins (hear it, biopoetics)

Cyphoma gibbosum – published in 2017The Waggle 5 (hear it, biopoetics)

Euplectella – published in 2016Eyedrum periodically (hear it, see the poem’s form, biopoetics)

Phycodurus eques – published in 2017Palaver Magazine, page 77 (hear it, biopoetics)

General Poetry:

Brilliant Moonbeam – published in 2016all the sins, found in Roald Dahl’s The BFG (hear it)

Desideratum – published in 2015, MiNT Magazine, page 33 (hear it)

Explanation of the True Trinity through Vodka Sauce – published in 2017, The Slag Review Issue 5 (hear it)

Mississippi Insect Masquerade – published in 2017, Frankenstein’s Review, pg 12 (with music!)collaboration with Joel Knopf

Water Bill – published in 2015, MiNT Magazine, page 7 (hear it)

Whitewash – published in 2017, The Slag Review Issue 5 (hear it)

 

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