Hoarded at the heart of an Arctic mountain,
within an archipelago of snow: an ark of seeds.
Cocooned against soil, nuclear bodies hunker
and wait for some future hungerscape. A gathering
of crops, varied faces folded into foil,
shuttered from the earth. Lentil, dark and round
and pebble-smooth. Barley’s slender husk of an eye.
Each wrinkled chickpea the embryonic head of a bird.
Sister seeds, in Aleppo, shelter abandoned
in the rubble of war. The snow is a silence
except for how the seeds call out to one
another across landmasses that shift and warm.
Svalbard reindeer swivel their ears to listen.
Foxes pause ghostlike on the permafrost.With one
quadrate eye, the vault reflects a frigid blue sea.
Ringed seals bob and dive among the glassy floes.
The vault’s stone hull juts like a shipwreck in the drifted
ice while polar bears chuff and lumber past the door.
Inside, thousands upon thousands of promises to feed
what may remain. Doomsday, its other name.
Because we’ve already planted what’s to come.
Edited by Dava Sobel
This article was originally published with the title “Vaulted Seeds” in Scientific American 326, 6, 24 (June 2022)