Ode to an Osedax

Whalefall and Boneflower and the Deep Sea Snow
Osedax mucofloris

Great whale, grey whale,
with the map of all the oceans
and their long songs in your brain,
where do you go
at the end of all your singing?
Weary one, oh

great, grave, gone whale,
who wove from that glittering string
a net so strong it held the sea's heave
to and fro,
you were always the deep diver, deeper now
than we can know

down and into the world beneath the world
with whalefall
and boneflower
and the deep sea snow.

What falls as snow
a mile deep
is skin and scales

the food we eat
the food we are

one and the same
dropped crumbs
the body's waste

into the dark

of ourselves
the flakes and cells
of life let go

to drift to fall
through stranger weather
than we can imagine


Kind worms, blind wofins
whom no one has seen or could love
how do you work, so dark, so cold
a mile below
as delicate as seamsfiess fingers, to unpick
the knots of bone?

Great bones, whale bones
that sank through blue green twilight
like an evening deepening forever
slow on slow,
to lie like spars of galleons
down where no

light comes, and nothing
lives, except ... Osedax mucofloris,
swaying like a pale bouquet of petals,
the worm-flowers grow.

This is the world beneath the world.
where all life came from, maybe, maybe
where we go,

where we come home
to whalefall
and boneflower
and the deep,
the deep,
the deep
sea snow

The poem was performed by Philip Gross at the IPC12 Icebreaker.

Philip Gross is one of the UK’s leading poets, winner of the TS Eliot Prize among other awards, whose latest (18th) collection of poetry Love Songs of Carbon was noted for its weaving of serious science through its playful and heartfelt exploration of the ageing body. He writes and leads imaginative workshops for young people, and is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Wales.