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The soil holds secrets in its depths
That we mere humans cannot know with ease
Not like worms that tunnel through the loam
Though we shallow dig to plant our seeds
Or microbes who consume our tossed decay
Or root that reaches to the deepest cistern
We can’t disrupt or change or infiltrate
Though I perceive that plants, worms, microbes listen
To the continent-spanning network of mere fungus
Communicating through so vast a scheme
Through the conceit of our inconstant stay
We can only wonder if it thinks or seems
to also have consciousness or, self-aware,
laughs at our incorporeal thoughts that start and stop in air.

With apologies to Shakespeare
* Inspired by Ursula Leguin’s wonderful story of a planet-spanning consciousness
and for the dverse poetics prompt of 2/9/21: fungus

12 thoughts on “Vaster than empires, and more slow*

  1. Wonderful write Xan. We can only wonder if it thinks — yes, truly! I am sharing this interesting fact today. A “Armillaria Ostoyae” mushroom, in the Malheur National Forest, in the Strawberry Mountains of eastern Oregon, was found to be the largest fungal colony in the world, spanning an area of 3.5 square miles (2,200 acres; 9.1 km2). WOW! Big ‘shroom!

  2. We need secrets, things to discover, or life would be boring, and I love the way you’ve revealed some of them in this poem and taken me deeper into the soil. I can imagine ‘plants, worms, microbes listen[ing] / To the continent-spanning network of mere fungus’. I wonder whose ‘incorporeal thoughts that start and stop in air’ they are – ours or the fungi?

  3. First of all, well done on writing such a lovely sonnet. It flows beautifully. I love all that underground action you portray, and the fact that it is so inaccessible and incomprehensible to us – beings who communicate by batting air around. That’s so weird.

  4. A great sonnet! I especially love these lines:

    ‘Though I perceive that plants, worms, microbes listen
    To the continent-spanning network of mere fungus’

    This is a mind-blowing idea. Perhaps the fungi have been running the show all along…

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