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Co-Evolution

May 14, 2013

by Robin Chapman

“the evolutionary future is pathogens, pets, and guests”
—Rob Dunn, 2007

Count among domesticated species
the fruit fly, traveling with our pears,
banana trees, living 1000 generations
as tissue culture in our lab jars;
the house mouse’s several species,
adapted to wintering inside our walls;
our skin microbes, evolving under
the selection pressure of antibacterial soap;
the DDT resistant bugs and BT enhanced weeds;
and in the Petri dishes, plants adapted
to take up our heavy metals, salts.

Snakes with mouths too small
to eat the poison Cane Toads
will grow larger jaws. The breeds
of Labradoodle dogs will multiply,
the clones of prion-resistant cows diverge;
whatever the future fate of life,
the lice and viruses of the world are ours;
microbes will develop a taste for plastics.

And ours too whatever lives or dies
as we strip our forests or plant more trees,
mono-crop or companion plant, green
our roofs or pave the ground, trawl
the seas with nets of every size; what’s left,
pest, pet, or guest, has hitched its star
to us; what follows always logical
from the view of a genetic pool and its niche.


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Robin Chapman (blog) is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Abundance, winner of the Cider Press Review’s Book Award, and The Eelgrass Meadow (Tebot Bach, October 2011). She is recipient of Appalachia‘s 2010 Helen Howe Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared recently in Alaska Quarterly Review, Nimrod, and Wilderness. She’s also a watercolor and acrylic artist.

  1. Barbara LaMorticella
    May 15, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Very nice!

  2. Steve T.
    May 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Robin, very good blend of poetry and science. Well-crafted work as always!

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