Ode to Carbon

With its four valence electrons,
four magnets of the earth’s heart,
four poles of energy,
Carbon emerged from the hot,
primordial atmosphere,
the element of life itself.

Lightning filled the air,
the ocean writhed like a pregnant
tormented dragon,
The waters issued forth
strange looking fish,
transparent, crawling worms,
armored trilobites,
jellyfish floating like ghostly, ephemeral nets.
Plants invaded the virgin landmasses,
moss, fronds, grasses, and trees,
tangled and overgrown,
infested the earth with their green mantle.

Animals crawled onto land,
breathing the bright, new
oxygen rich air. They sprouted
arms, legs, lungs, heralding
a new epoch of evolution—
amphibians with dual personalities,
lizards with flashing tongue,
dinosaurs with fearsome claws and scaly skin,
birds without feathers,
enormous insects with vivid wings.

Element of boundless energy,
As soon as man came,
he saw your potential.
From beneath the earth’s surface,
man found your hiding place,
he dug up the fertile plains,
blasted the mountains
in order to exhume your black body
and soot covered face.
But man was not satisfied.
With prodigious violence and insatiable greed,
he pumped you out of the earth,
siphoned you from the seas.

In the fiery union with oxygen,
carbon released its incredible energy:
motors roared to life,
highways sped like the tails of comets,
factories churned,
issuing columns of smoke,
the night retreated in a wilderness of lights,
the stars could not compete with their brilliance.

You tried to protest this abuse of your power,
poisoning the fish in your destructive wrath,
the ocean became a bay of toxins,
the otters were drowned,
the filth stuck to the feathers of birds.
The air filled with smoke and sulfur,
acid rained down and killed the forests.

But carbon, we are insatiable now.
Under your tutelage,
our cities became mighty,
our wealth overflowing,
our cruelty unrivaled,
our dominion supreme.
With weapons of mass destruction,
we devastated whole nations
in our relentless desire to possess you.

Carbon,
we used you and discarded you.
Come back to earth,
let us conserve your abundance.
Return to the refined constellation of our bodies,
be blood, bone and tissue again.
The oceans filled with fish
and the woods alive with birds
made out of carbon from the gold of their claw
to the green of their wings.
A new age of energy has begun.
Let the sun shine and the wind blow
across her turbines.
Let the air everywhere be as cool and clear
as air on top of a mountain.
Carbon, you have come full circle,
return to the earth again.

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