Killer Algae: A Diptych

by Michael Broder

1: Caulerpa Taxiflora

Our beauty the reporter never mentioned—
dense green meadows deep undersea,
bright creeping stalks, fronded like the yew.

Only how we invaded alien waters,
evicted native flora, poisoned sea urchins and fishes
in the Mediterranean, off coastal California,

as if we ourselves had not been cruelly plucked,
wrenched from one bed
and tossed in countless others,

as if we had chosen this,
as if we had not had endured
twenty years of treacherous seduction

beginning in a fish tank where they held us captive
and whence we, in the end, were flushed away,
forced to crawl in sand, mud,

over the dead rhizomes of sea grasses,
clinging to rocks, thriving in cold dark waters
on meager food, hitchhiking on anchors

and the interstices of fishing nets
until fishermen scraped
and washed us into harbors.

Only how they attacked us
with suction pumps, dry ice, hot water,
ultrasound and electric shocks,

all to no avail, until finally, in California,
they cloaked us with a tarp,
shot liquid chlorine beneath it,

and killed us—along with any native plants
and animals that were trapped there.

2: Forgotten Treasure of Tide Pools

We—brown and red, thick with mucilage,
how we admired, when you first arrived,
your fronds green and slender, radiant,
reflecting the light that we absorbed.

When we glimpsed you lurking in kelp forests
while we clung to rocks or hid in sand or drifted,
how we longed to be explored, discovered,
taken for your colonies, to your luxuriant beds.

We shared with you the flavors of our ocean,
oxygen and minerals, life, our life,
because we knew how far you had traveled,
over seas, continents, worlds old and new;

we knew how they hated, attacked you,
though it was not your choice to journey
from your tropical zones to our cold,
inhospitable coast.

But this we never imagined:
your hunger, so complete, so consuming;
how you starved the species we nourished,
and replaced us as soon as we were gone.


About Michael Broder

Michael Broder is the author of This Life Now (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, BLOOM, Columbia Poetry Review, Court Green, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Poem-a-Day on He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and a large brood of feral and domestic cats.