Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


Devonian Roots in Cairo, New York

in Science & Tech by

Scoured channels splay, could at a glance
be impression of sea stars, crinoids, clustered
mudworms, until you spot minute human
on the perimeter, remote controlling drone
for this bug’s-eye view. Stamped in stone
three-hundred-eighty-five million years ago,
archaeopteris feet crept towards emergence
of seed. Shockingly modern roots radiate
guts-legs-feet in one organ stretched
to suck-grab-grip before flowers first unfurled.
Geoengineers, they crushed rock in super-slow-mo,
bound the matrix, buttressed tipsy slopes, locked carbon
in cellulose, crocheted lacework of rootlets and fungus
for chemical conversation, vegetal flesh at death
turned to compost and coal. Green-furred forests
shambled many-legged across shifting continents.
Fortified the earth to accumulate life. Protected
fertile humus. Sheltered fragile humans. So speedy,
so industrious we have undone much
of their slow, quiet work.


Jacqui Malins is a stunt poet, spoken word performer and multi-disciplinary artist based in Canberra, Australia. Jacqui has performed at a wide variety of events and festivals and published her first collection Cavorting with Time (Recent Work Press) in 2018.

Photo generously contributed by William Stein and Christopher Berry, members of the research team who made this discovery.


The World’s Oldest Forest Has 385-Million-Year-Old Tree Roots
[Smithsonian Magazine]

Mid-Devonian Archaeopteris Roots Signal Revolutionary Change in Earliest Fossil Forests
[Current Biology]

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