Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Never Saw a Wild Thing

after DHLawrence

Clearly out-of-it in some way
a wasp goes through the motions;
stumbles around the rim or
homes in on my sweet beer breath.
Wafted away it stalls, falls off the air
clumsy to the table, too weak to evade;
to programme the usual lines of code
but she walks into a spec of sweet.
And like an idea dawning on a human face,
Babbage’s last tumblers falling into place,
the sweet seems to select a sequence – nest.
She turns, clock-wise, aligns to the light,
rolls a cold sun like a solitary bearing
to shine down the funnel of a compound eye:
checks angle, declination, wind
then casts away on to the wing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Satellite, The Moon falls and misses Earth indefinitely
as light is bent around The Sun by the weakest of all forces.

Substance to structure, each life exacts a pull.
Manufactory, a seed reads code guides,
sucks at its surroundings,
extracts material means
for the making of a living.

Each gestation marks the pace of change
as side by side blue whale and pygmy shrew
accrue the necessary means of being.
Sentience, emerging, demands a higher yield
and hominid evolves its encephalon.

Migration walks and falls from foot to foot,
to strip and burn and pass. From hand to mouth,
new mind pits brute thought against red nature:
bent, out-witting, by means of invention,
the natural force of selection.

Settlement presses the footprint deeper;
Blue stones moved as though to the moon
still count, sacred, around a mound,
while hive minds now split time at somewhere
near the speed at which sun shines.

Technical replication, though blind as bacteria,
dumb as parasites, mutual as mitochondria
expects a necessary tending. And needy as we must be
to please our master genes, can we in any way see that
we never were the end and are still only part of the means.

And so a sixth great extinction shifts a gear.
Human moods unleashed from lunar-heave,
weave past neap and spring; sweep meme and meme;
belief defeats hard survival. Ideas pent to progress,
push like ‘misnamed’ tidal waves

or funnel a rising bore against the river’s tow,
cut back steep banks that shore from overflow.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Carved into the bark
a four letter alphabet
A C G T Spells............Life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Panta Rhei – Everything Streams

The impossibility of repetition

Everything streams
yet everything seems infinitely divisible.
Sunshine beams outside
light scatters through trees and fallen leaves.

Step into the stream.
Particles teem in shoals, weave in flux and pass, until
in rain they fall again
where change leaves nothing the same.

Light scatters through trees and fallen leaves.
Sunshine beams outside.
Everything seems infinitely divisible;
yet everything streams.

Catching Waves

“The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder, but when I think of the fine known gradations, my reason tells me I ought to conquer the cold shudder.”
Charles Darwin

Stand anywhere.
Take a slice thinner than a human hair
Are there pictures passing through the air?

To catch light on a film of silver salts;
boil animal hides to gelatine,
spread a thousandth thick on celluloid,
turn black to white from red blue green,
from white to black and back again.
Stand anywhere. Catch the light
as pictures passing through the air.

Or to catch a wave - electromagnetic
and visible to the eye - align an array
of ten million solar cells,
turn red blue green into something or nothing;
(binary bits and bytes per pixel),
colours to numbers and back again.
Caught on the end of a human hair,
are there pictures passing through the air?

Or conquer a cold shudder and
take advantage of a long line
of slight successive variations
advanced by the shortest and slowest steps
in numerous gradations towards an organ
of extreme perfection and complication.
Did nature once make a nerve sensitive to light?

Stand anywhere.
Take one hundred and sixty million spliced human hairs;
are there pictures passing through the air?

*The majority of the final verse is an arrangement of Darwin’s own words in The Origin of Species and from a letter to a colleague

Time Pressing

I pick a pebble from the waterline;
cut through with its stripe of quartz it catches my eye.
Wetness picks out the black
and light glints the silica stippled in the sun.
If it were a fish it would be glistening;
it would gasp for water and slip from my grasp
quicker than I could catch a grab at it.

Not a million miles from here but in a million years
it has traced an existence,
pressed from previous sedimentary incarnations:
Ground, weathered, stirred in spate,
settled in calmer waters to fall and lie
with grains of common size and mass,
overlain by successive pressings.

Then forced up to be torn and cracked
fractured and beaten, bouldered, smashed and frosted,
split, baked and chipped off the block to be
tossed, jostled, smoothed round and graded, until
flipped flat at my feet it catches my eye,
cut through with its stripe of quartz:
for the first time subject to desire.

My want to possess is weighed for once
in the light of mindfulness.
Out of its element, dead in my hand,
is the power to suspend geological time.
Human time, though insignificant, has no respect
for the greater achievement that the grinding cycle of ages
has the dumb patience to achieve;

I place the stone as near to where I found it.
Gathered by the backwash,
waves gives gravity to the gesture.
Not having long to linger
I turned from the pull of the sea
and pressed for time
I left.


The sea-worm crawls – grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
Thomas Hardy - Lines on the loss of the Titanic.

With the first kick of boot onto spade
The worm shrinks back.
Nature counts sedimentary time.
Uranium beats half-life to lead
Taking the time it takes
The pendulum keeps deep time.
And the sea-worm crawls
Slimed, dumb, indifferent
Up from the swing of blind inertia.
Eon, Era, Epoch
Neogene, Holocene, Human
Human Human.