Genesis: A Sestina Poem About the Creation of the Earth and the Evolution of Life

I haven’t published anything on here in a couple weeks, but I am currently working on a rather long and detailed article for your viewing pleasure. In the meantime, I am publishing this. Below is a poem called a sestina, and it’s about the creation of the Earth, the evolution of life, and mass extinctions. I wrote this during my senior year of college in Fall 2010. I can’t believe it’s been nearly five years now. It may not seem like much, since it’s not your standard rhyming poem, but if you know anything about sestinas, you will know they are quite difficult to write.

Invented by the troubadour Arnaut Daniel in the 12th Century, sestinas consist of thirty nine lines compiled into six six line stanzas and one three line envoi. The same six words are used to end each line throughout the poem, and they are rotated in a set pattern. Pay very close attention to the words I use at the end of each line. I won’t bore you with any more details than that, but if you want to learn more about sestinas the Academy of American Poets has a nice article on the subject.


By Teddy Fotiou

Volcanoes erupt on a smoldering sphere;
Steam slips into the atmosphere. Clouds.
Clouds form and drench the molten rocks.
Boiling waters rise and form seas.
The Cosmic Crockpot is brewing. Life. 

Stromatolites grow and harbor prokaryotic life.
And, then, billions of years later: BANG!
Modern invertebrates prowl the seas,
Lurking beneath the depths of the blue sphere.
Blue and white jellyfish form marine clouds;
Sponges and sea squirts cling to sandy rocks.

Pleated trilobites scurry under the rocks,
Hiding from anomalocaridids. Delicate life.
Conical-shelled cephalopods squirt ink in clouds.
Jawless fish dart into the blue. And then: BANG!
Cooksonia stalks sprout from the barren sphere.
Slender-bodied sharks swarm the warm seas.

Dunkleosteus reigns as King of the Seas,
Chasing amphibious fish onto the dry rocks,
The dry rocks on the blue sphere,
Where arthropods remain the sole terrestrial animal life.
Spade-tailed amphibians waddle after them, and BANG!
Reptiles rule the land, and dragonflies obscure the clouds.

Lumbering synapsids dominate but perish in dust clouds,
When the Great Dying purifies the land and the seas,
Reaping 83% of life in a horrendous BANG!
But, from death, come the dinosaurs, roaming the rocks,
Hunting the forests, and roving the plains. New life.
Pangaea splits, and its pieces move across the sphere.

A massive asteroid approaches the sphere,
Splashing into the sea and filling the sky with clouds.
The clouds obscure the sun and massacre most life.
Once again, the Cosmic Reaper robs life from land and seas,
And the dinosaurs are no more. Their bones become rocks.
And it’s all because of the asteroid that hit with a BANG!

But the cycle continues, and life recovers on the land and in the seas.
Mammals emerge from under the ash clouds and molten rocks,
And they gaze up at the bright yellow sphere. BANG! 

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