Poem: ‘Vaulted Seeds,’ after the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Poem: ‘Vaulted Seeds,’ after the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Science in meter and verse

Credit: J. Berger/BRG/Global Crop Diversity Trust

Hoarded at the heart of an Arctic mountain,
An ark of seeds is located within an archipelago snow.
Cocooned against soil, nuclear bodies hunker
Wait for a future hungerscape. A gathering

of crops, varied faces folded into foil,
Shrouded from the Earth Lentil, dark and round
Pebble-smooth. Barley’s thin husk of an ear.
Each chickpea wrinkled is the embryonic head a bird.

Sister seeds, in Aleppo, shelter abandoned
In the rubble of war. The snow is a silence
except for how the seeds call out to one
Another across landmasses that shift or heat.

Svalbard reindeer swivel to listen.
Foxes pause ghostlike on the permafrost.With one
Quadrate eye, the vault reflects the frigid blue sea.
Ringed seals dive and bob among the glassy floes.

The vault’s stone hull juts like a shipwreck in the drifted
While polar bears lumber past the door, ice melts.
Inside, thousands upon thousands of promises to feed
What may be left. Doomsday, the other name.

Because what’s yet to come has been planted.

Edited by Dava Sobel

This article was originally published with the title “Vaulted Seeds” in Scientific American 326, 6, 24 (June 2022)

doi: 10. 1038/scientificamerican0622-24


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