Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Do Tamales Have to Do with Marine Biology?

Yesterday Syd commented on my post something really stupendous that I want to share:

"Thanks for writing this. I am a marine scientist and have been 3 miles down in the ocean. My dissertation was on deep sea organisms. I appreciate the census of marine life and currently have a project that participates in this program. We know so little about our own planet. And we are slowly destroying it."

That's something worth thinking about. If you missed the post, here's a recap:

This week's news reports that marine biologists have recorded 17,650 species living in the ocean depths where the sunlight ceases. They are weird shaped and living on the snow-like decaying matter that drifts down from above.They hope to announce by the end of the ongoing census that a million or more species remain unknown, in addition to the 235,000 living in the extreme ocean depths, which they thought was a desert until this plethora of living things showed up. On land, they’ve catalogued 1.5 million types of plants and animals.

I was pretty stoked about that. We live in an awesome world.

And you are wondering what the heck tamales have to do with it all.
Well, the whole thing made me write a poem at nine o'clock last night, and here it is:
Tamales Rise Above the Depths of the Sea

While I ponder the news of over 17,000 new species
discovered in the ocean’s deep black depths,
the tamale guy rings the doorbell and his wife
waits in the car with tamale spice rising from her hands.

Ten dollars I will pay for six red chicken tamales
and on these we will feed for three days at least.
In the pitch-black depths of the sea, outlandish
creatures feed on snowflakes of decaying matter,
including bones of whales and methane gas.

At the point where sunlight ceases, life begins
for countless mystifying living beings.
The tamale guy couldn’t care less about oddities
living miles beneath the sea. He wants to sell
his wife’s tamales, piping hot and redolent of
chili. It matters not how life revolves around

the planet, when tamales are the nourishment
that keeps us humans ticking for another day.
A catalog of 1.5 million types of plants and beasts
are known to share the earth with us, with more

than a million mysterious living beings not known
in the uttermost depths of the black sea, a guess,
a conjugation of organisms unknown to man.
My hot tamales are the substance of known matter,
of chicken, of chili, of masa and corn leaves

which I eat with tremendous relish in my home
where light blooms in the darkness, and the living
beings are simple dogs and simple cats, one loving
husband, and a planet where the sun will rise
tomorrow morning, on the lush landscape
where I live.
Chris Alba © 2009
Photo of Enypniastes courtesty of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute


Madison said...

Love this. To me, it shows how we all live separate sort of disconnected lives in disconnected worlds. You brought it all together.

Scott said...

i remember as a kid wanting to be a marine biologist... fascinating stuff!

Karen said...

For me, the best thing about poetry has always been the unexpected connections made by the poet. Who would have thought that tamales and marine life would cause us to ponder such important truths?

You have the mind and soul of a poet and a command of the language that makes you an outstanding modern poet. This is right up there with the best!

Shadow said...

we all actually live very secluded lives. your world is your surroundings, as mine is my neighbourhood, and although it's the same, it also isn't. and we are but one small part of the big whole...

Brian Miller said...

i had the most amazing tamales on a trip to El Paso once. home made...yum!

really its sad the truth in out of sight out of mind...there is so much we have yet to discover, an in our ignorance destroy the opportunity...

hope you have a great day!

Dianne said...

Wow first comment,
I feel the same way, as well as humbled and small as being only one of the 1.5 million types of life.
And lucky to have found the lives I have

Tall Kay said...

Most people could give a rats a** about the unknown depths of the sea. It's comforting to know that somebody cares. I got a giggle right from the title! What a very cool picture.

big Jenn said...

I feel guilty about whining and ranting when I read this wonderful piece. You've snapped me straight out of my ridiculous crap today! Bless you and thank you! jeNN

Nessa said...

There is so much we never see. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate and a Happy Thursday just to celebrate.Wild Turkeys

G-Man said...

10 Bucks for SIX tamales?
I live in the wrong state!
See you tomorrow?

Poetikat said...

I'm always amazed at where the brain can take you. This journey between the tamale-reality and the hidden depths where sea-creatures are nourished on the detritus of the surface—this juxtaposition (God, I wish there was another word that meant as much!) it's just so Daliesque, isn't it?

Just Be Real said...

Very very interesting. Puts a lot of things into perspective. Blessings dear one...

the walking man said...

I don't think I need choose between tamales and deep sea organisms. if they will not eat my tamales I will try to stop others from eating theirs.

Syd is right...we better wake up soon because we are not slowly killing the planet but rather at an increasing accelerating rate.

Syd said...

I like the poem so much. It pains me at times that people are so unaware of what exists in the ocean. But it is a great place of many mysteries yet to be revealed. I am glad to have seen some fantastic things. Thanks for your insight. And also for your kind words about my old girl. Happy Thanksgiving to you.