The Hadal Zone

This poem was first published in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ 2014 prize anthology Encore. I hope you enjoy!


The Hadal Zone

We humans dabble in the waves lanced with sunlight,
rarely swimming down to the layer known
as the twilight zone, where creatures
fast and active dart beneath us.

Under that is the midnight zone, where
eyeless things swim slow and slimy circles,
where prey is lured rather than hunted, where
those who kill feel nothing – not even joy.

Lower even than this distant level
lies the abyssal zone, a cold place
of perpetual darkness,
spotted only by those things
who must make their own glow.

They should be the bottom.
Yet, in places, the bottom
drops out, and trenches deeper
than inverted mountains
form an unknowable underworld
of impossible, alien things –
hiding those who live
below the abyss.

© Annie Neugebauer, 2014.


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  • Creepy! I loved it! My favorite line is “where eyeless things swim slow and slimy circles” – the alliteration works so well. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cynthia Robertson

    Creepy indeed! It’s a gloomy morning here in AZ today (my favorite fall weather for writing – I don’t know why) and your poem perfectly fits, Annie!

  • I love your writing voice! You deftly tinge the creepy with beautiful and thought provoking undertones.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    Yes, very creepy and beautifully written. I can tell this is your FAVORITE time of the year. Such fun!

  • Peggy

    Another one of my favorites. Leave it to you to showcase Mother Nature as the “Mother” of all horror:) It’s quiet, it’s subtle, & it creeps up on the reader with its disturbing progression of frightening realities…

    • Gosh, thanks! I’ve always loved deep-sea creepiness. It’s essentially alien life, but it’s real and it’s right here on our planet, which kind of blows my mind.

  • Carie Juettner

    Very nice. I like how you began with a well known phrase– “the twilight zone”– and took us deeper (literally and figuratively) into unexpected places. 🙂

    • Thank you! Turns out it really is called “the twilight zone.” I was kind of surprised by that. Another well-known phrase that’s actually used for one of the deeper layers is “the abyss.” Go figure, huh?

  • Andrea Blythe

    Beautiful work.

  • A. B. Davis

    Great poem. I seem to remember a sea monsters book on your goodreads. Could it be that this poem is a tribute to that book? Or at least inspired in part by it? 😉 ‘…where those who kill feel nothing–not even joy.’ Whoa. Also, I love the third stanza, about the creepy glowing fish.

    • Thanks so much, Ashley. Yes, I do have a deep sea creatures book (and it’s GORGEOUS). But my lips are sealed. 😉 So glad you like the poem!

  • Well-organized straight forward facts composed within a few lines and deep feelings, deeper than “the abyss”. I love this poem.

    Cheers!
    Ehssan Subhi Dannouf

  • Traci Kenworth

    Awesome. It’s hard to think of those bottom alien creatures and what they might be like.

    • Thanks, Traci! I agree; scientists and explorers are discovering more all the time, though. It’s an incredible thing.