Slice of Life: Ode to Microbes


Each month, I look forward  to the ditty challenge on Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog. But when Diana Murray, August’s featured author, challenged Michelle’s readers to “write a poem about an unlikely hero,” I was stumped.

Then I heard Robert Krulwich interview Ed Yong about his new book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life (Ecco, 2016) at the Strand Bookstore. Within minutes I knew I’d found my hero.


That turned out to be the easy part. Yong’s book makes it clear that microbes are endlessly fascinating, but they are also endlessly complex. The more we learn about them, the more apparent it is that they play a vital role in our existence. They deserve high praise. Here is the latest draft of my attempt to give it to them.

Pasteuria ramosa spores By Dieter Ebert, Basel, Switzerland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Pasteuria ramosa spores By Dieter Ebert, Basel, Switzerland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Ode to Microbes

Despite your microscopic size
you have tremendous power.
Somehow you’ve managed to colonize
every human, hummingbird, and flower.

No habitat’s too hostile,
you flourish everywhere.
And though some may think you’re vile,
you deserve a trumpet fanfare.

The jobs you do are myriad.
Research uncovers more each day.
Your relationships are spirited,
with both symbionts and prey.

The work you do inside our gut
helps digest our food.
On our skin, any scrape or cut
heals faster thanks to your multitudes.

So sing a song to microbes
and their endless variation.
Thank you, mighty microbes,
for propelling our creation.

© Catherine Flynn, 2016

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Ode to Microbes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s