“Who Speaks for the Rock Snot?” by Patricia O’Neil

Patricia O’Neil


In defense of the aquatic algae, didymosphenia geminata, thought to be invasive but now found to be native in New England trout streams.

They say I’m invasive, but that’s not the truth.
This stream’s been my home since the days of my youth.
Generations of didymos always have thrived here,
unknown both to you and the trout that you’ve fried here.

When the mountain snow melts way too fast and too soon,
I bloom and I bloom and I bloom and I bloom.
Then I cover the rocks on the bottoms of streams
and dash all your fly-fishing trout-catching dreams.

If you’d left me alone in my cool northern bed,
I’d have stayed microscopic and just barely fed;
but I thrive when the nitrogen rushes right through,
and that’s just what your fast-melting snow makes it do.

Things were working just fine for the trout and for us
until you came along with your fossil-fueled lust
for big cars and machines, smogging up all creation,
and you have the nerve to call us infestation?

Keep emitting your carbon and cutting down trees.
Soon you’ll bring the whole natural world to its knees.
Call me rock snot or worse, I am slimy, that’s true,
but if rock snot could talk, think what we would call you.

Poets Respond
July 3, 2016

[download audio]


Patricia O’Neil: “I know that this week’s news has been dominated by Brexit and the horror in Istanbul, but a report on NPR piqued my interest. Evidently this poor microscopic algae has been living in northern streams for years and we didn’t even know it was there. Now because of global warming, it’s been multiplying like crazy. When it multiplies, it forms a mat-like substance that covers stream beds and rocks and looks for all the world like the snot of some prehistoric creature. Hence the name rock snot. It seemed to be crying out for a Seussian defense.”

Rattle Logo