Across the dunes, in the waning light,
The rising moon pours her amber rays,
Through the slumbrous air of the dim, brown night
The pungent smell of the seaweed strays—
From vast and trackless spaces
Where wind and water meet,
White flowers, that rise from the sleepless deep,
Come drifting to my feet.
They flutter the shore in a drowsy tune,
Unfurl their bloom to the lightlorn sky,
Allow a caress to the rising moon,
Then fall to slumber, and fade, and die.
White flowers, a-bloom on the vagrant deep,
Like dreams of love, rising out of sleep,
You are the songs, I dreamt but never sung,
Pale hopes my thoughts alone have known,
Vain words ne’er uttered, though on the tongue,
That winds to the sibilant seas have blown.
In you, I see the everlasting drift of years
That will endure all sorrows, smiles and tears;
For when the bell of time will ring the doom
To all the follies of the human race,
You still will rise in fugitive bloom
And garland the shores of ruined space.
The door to the third office opened and a girl in a white lab coat stepped out. Mel’s heart nearly stopped.
This was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Her wide-set eyes were deepest russet brown, and they shone even though her face was turned away from the sun. Her long, elegant cornrows reached nearly to her waist. She wore a dusting of apricot blush across her cheekbones, and her brown skin seemed to glow against the pale fabric of her lab coat. If the word radiant were a person, it would look like the girl who was standing before Mel now.
“Mel, this is my daughter, Anne. Anne, this is Mel. She’s considering doing an internship here,” said Ben.
“I think I’ve seen you around before, at school,” said Anne.
“We go to the same school?” said Mel. How could she possibly have failed to notice Anne?
“Yes, but I only transferred here this winter. I’ve seen you a couple times before, but you were always reading or looking at birds.”
Mel blushed. “That sounds like me.”
Anne hung her lab coat on the back of her door, revealing a red t-shirt underneath that read, “Black Scientists Matter.” She sat down next to Mel, plucking a packet of jelly babies from the bowl of sweets.
Illustration by Victoria Johnston
“Microbiology is my jam, but I’m going to be helping out with the plover project because I like getting outside, and, you know, he’s my dad,” said Anne, jabbing Ben with her elbow.
Ben laughed and rolled his eyes.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come out to meet you right away,” Anne went on. “I thought I’d found what I was looking for under the microscope. Turned out to be nothing, though.”
“What are you looking for?” asked Mel.
Anne flashed a smile so bright Mel almost closed her eyes. “Everything.” “OooOOoo, she’s so quirky and mysterious,” Bakul chortled.
Anne threw a jelly baby at them. “People usually get bored when I talk about microbiology, okay?”
“I won’t get bored,” said Mel. “I promise.”
Anne smiled. She was wearing some sort of shimmery, pink lip gloss, Mel noticed.
“Alright. How many microbe species do you think there are in the world?”
“I don’t know. Millions?”
Anne nodded. “It’s estimated that there are a trillion species of microbes. And do you know how many of them we’ve discovered? 0.001 percent,” she said, slapping the table as she said each digit.
Mel had never wanted to be friends with someone so badly in her entire life.
“So when I say I’m looking for everything, it’s kind of true. I’m looking for everything you can see under a microscope that hasn’t been discovered yet. I don’t really have the tools or the knowledge yet to run a full-scale investigation – I mean, I’m 16, it’s not like I have a PhD or anything – but I can still fiddle around with my microscope and see if I find anything unusual. Because if I can identify just one of those undiscovered species, it could unravel ecological mysteries that have haunted us for years. It could open up entirely new questions. Microbiology is the final frontier of the life sciences, Mel. Take a look in a petri dish; it’s outer space out there. Stars, planets, and everything,” said Anne.
An illustration from A. Hassall's book "A microscopic examination of the water supplied to the inhabitants of London and the suburban districts" (1850). The painting shows microbes found in the River Thames at Hungerford.
“That’s beautiful,” said Mel.
Bakul leaned back in their chair, smiling as though they’d heard this speech a few times before.
Ben gave Mel a nod. “So what do you say Mel? Do you want to intern with us?” “Aye,” Mel said, before she could stop herself. “Aye, of course I do.”
About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at
About today's featured poet: Sadakichi Hartmann was born in 1867 in Nagasaki, Japan and spent most of his childhood in Germany. In 1882, Hartmann's father sent him to live with a relative in the United States after the youth ran away from military school. There, Hartmann found success as a writer and performer. He returned to mainland Europe and the U.K. several times in his lifetime. He is known as one of the first writers of English