When the carcass of a whale
lands on the seafloor, scavengers
set to work; this is the first phase.
Over months, sharks, fish, crabs
pick clean the skeleton of its flesh,
leaving the vertebra
in a long column flanked
by two fans of flipper bones,
the jaws articulated to a massive skull.
Then the second phase begins:
snails, clams, and worms feed a few years
on cartilage and the surface of bone;
they burrow into
the rich apron of sediment
where blubber and oil leached out.
The final, sulphafilic stage is bacterial,
plus all the marine life that eats bacteria
—mussels, tube worms, sponges.
A single whale carcass creates
an ecosystem of concentrated nutrients
that can last as long as a century.
That’s influence for you.
Below where light can penetrate,
in the bathypelagic zone,
a gift sinks down the water column
to rest in brown clay
on the dark plains of the deep.
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