Below Oklo

by Ken Hunt

Press your ear against a fossilized nautilus
to hear the hum of this natural reactor.

Below and before the colonial mines, before
there was fallout, bombs, or shelters,

there was a belly full of light, a lair
for balrogs, where a granular fuzz

of uranium crystals tickled the feet
of eyeless dryads, their skin embalmed

by stray ions. They once bathed
in pockets of superheated water trapped

in porous granite, fed on waves of heat
from muddled suns whose pungent rays

pickled the tissues of the earth. They drank
the brutal dew of Styx from crystal goblets,

redirecting rivulets to sustain their shrieking
stars, whose own songs cut with wild notes

sawed from infernal violins, each burst
of fission crumpling like a lantern as it drifts

into the maw of an ocean trench. Their lost
experiments predate us. Pandora’s box

unlocked itself, like a forgotten clock striking
in an empty house, clotting Oklo’s depths

with the chimes of crimson choirs, accompanied
by cruel buglers jealous of the swirling worms

above. Before our hominid ancestors tread,
sleepless, across savannahs sweet with primal

fears, restless veins of nuclear fuel blazed
in this georeactor, each Precambrian

burst the dream spasm of a body
of ore, a radionuclear twitch.

Neodymium dissolved, mired in aching
heat. Ruthenium threads unravelled

in the raving deep, decay particles caught
in sandstone, clay, and granite. Thermal

neutrons sundered the surrounding umber
stone of these hothouse catacombs.

Carcinogenic steam from Vulcan bathhouses
permeated troughs of liquid heat, where even

molecules boiled, nuclei evaporated. A visiting
necromancer brought all fossils near the reactor

back to life. Calcified skeletons cracked open their
stratified tombs to dance in the antechamber

of Earth’s first critical mass. Nature was never
innocent, entrapping hymns within black crystals,

testing her own flesh, carving with water trenches
for demoniac sparks, twisted fields tended to grow

the tectonic fauna of dark gardens: uraninite,
pitchblende, thorianite, pegmatite, betafte,

lost volumes from a mineralogical apocrypha.
The demise of the Anthropocene was written

in these stones. There was a revelation when
the mines opened, though the miracle was

merely material. Plunderers dove into the earth
for the spoils of new energy. The virus of humanity

prepared itself for omnicide, realizing that their
doomsday clocks were slower than they thought.

Ken Hunt

Contributing Author

Other works on The Blasted Tree:

Below Oklo by Ken Hunt is a Blasted Tree original poem.