As if finding water and nourishment
is not hard enough, be warned—

some soil is toxic. Old ocean bottom lies—
greasy, brittle, bottle-green

and black. Metamorphosed, uplifted,
eroded and fractured, water seeps

through its fissures, charging crumbs
with heavy metals in the guise of soil.

You’ll siphon up nickel, chromium,
second-helpings of asbestos, starved

of nitrogen and calcium.
If you adapt, your stunted trunk

will twist and deform, flat leaves
grow fleshy, and roots–you’ll bulge

with knotted nodes. Ask ceonothus,
brassica, or mentzelia how it’s done.

You didn’t choose the spot where
the seed you grow from fell.

You do your job, drink venom
from serpentine soil, and when

the plant you succor dies,
you will be the last to go, leaving

an irony—your bit of biomass, scorched
in gritty sand you mistook for home.

Oh, roots: A poem by Megan Anderson Bohigian

Photo used under CC.