Shhh…let’s lie low here for a while And let our camouflage do its thing – Let’s watch the daily rank-and-file As it passes by on the wing. Birds or people, far or near, They flock till they part their ways. If we keep still, we’ll dissapear As they chase their busy days. It’s good to sometimes sit and think With a patient air and a weather eye – Let’s slow our breaths and barely blink, And watch the world go by.
Beetles, tortoises, and nuts, Pearls in shells and wasps in galls, Hermit crabs in disused huts, Rolled-up armadillo balls, Frogs in mud and chicks in eggs, Goods in crates and crates in hulls, Drinks in bottles, bones in legs, Feet in shoes and brains in skulls.
Telepathy – could it be radio ? Could we ever evolve to receive it ? You’d better believe it ! Pigeon already can, you know, Or at least, the magnetic field, So science has revealed. And then there’s electricity, Made by the platypus and eel To help them stun or feel. And, for sheer simplicity, We all see visible light, or course – That’s the same old force ! But could we ever transmit ? Even bio-luminescence, Is a rare and gloomy presence, Yet feels like it might fit – Lengthening the waves it sends, Detected by its friends Who see much deeper in the red – Though still only line-of-sight, And still not bright. Next – a wire in the head – An aerial, but what does that solve ? How could it ever evolve ? And the energy required To send it further than a voice Will never make it nature’s choice. No, we’ll never be wired, We’ll never fill the air with speech – At least, not till we’re cyborgs each…
Hippocalypse Now that the herd is in the barn, And now that the flock is in the fold, Then huddle close and I’ll spin you a yarn, The one my father told. And he was taught by his in turn, And he by his, the self-same airs That someday your own kids will learn When you tell them, and they tell theirs.
Sometimes, late at night, Out on the plains, or on the road, When the bats are in full flight To the singing of the toad, There can be heard the gallop Of a lonely charger wild, Through the ups of York and Salop And the downs of Kent and Fylde
There’s those who claim they’ve seen him, And they claim he rides a grey, A snow-white grey so gleaming That the very stars give way. A king, they say, with bow and crown, And horseshoes of cold steel – And ev’rywhere those hooves stomp down, The people come to heel.
Though some say he’s not invading Through our castles, towns and huts, But rather the land he’s raiding Is our throats, and veins and guts – Riding, riding, ever onwards, There is no defence – Though some may call him Conquest, And others Pestilence.
But many will say No!, he rides a chestnut When he roams abroad, And he wears a shining breastplate, And he holds a tempered sword – And he is War, yet not invasion, But a people one upon another, Year-on-year, at any provocation, Brother killing brother.
But fighting is fighting, and always near To the likes of us who are called on to bleed, And arrow or sword, it’s the same old fear When facing down the next stampede. Or maybe a few who see this horseman Get to then escape to tell – Yet whether Mongol, Moor, or Norseman, All those roads lead straight to Hell.
Still, I have also heard it told by folks That the horse is jettest black, And gaunt enough that each rib pokes, With scarcely strength for saddle or pack – But its passenger can’t weigh much, at least, He’s spindly as his balancing scales – Clearly the lord of the Famine, not the feast As he measures out losses from frosts and gales.
Then others say his is the best-fed mount In any town it passes, Glossy like the fur-coat of a count Against their threadbare nags and asses. And the dirt where its hoofprints have trodden is barren now, The only thing growing is the drought – The fields are always so shy of the plough When Famine goes riding out.
Yet the final vision of our phantom knight Is the strangest of all they claim to have seen, When robed in black, or robed in white, On a pale steed – maybe dun, yet maybe green. Some say a skeleton, devoid of flesh, And what does he carry ? An hourglass of time ? A downturned torch, or a flail to thresh ? Or a sickle to scythe the stalks in their prime ?
And they give him a name, they call him Death. But surely all these versions are that – So death by what ? Perhaps from a poisoned breath, Or the slurry from the mines, or rancid fat ? Maybe our souls aren’t chaff to the miller, But the smoke in the lung and the acid on the stone – Pollution, that’s the next big killer – And surely worth a horseman all of its own.
So light all the candles and ring all the bells, To ward off the Silent Divider, And warn them in Wigan and Walsall and Wells Of the grizzled new face of the Rider. From Wetherby weavers to Tintagel Tin, From the tar-pits of Derby to Sunderland soot, So each time we breathe we invite the rogue in And his fingers leave shadows wherever they’re put.
Then listen, my children, listen for his hoofbeat, Listen as he slowly yet surely destroys By dogging the trudging of your own two feet In the choke and the grime and the constant noise. His other visions are horrors of our past, But it’s in our future that we all must die, And the fourth of the horsemen will take us at the last As he kicks up the dust as he’s riding by.
I suppose Pollution should cover the mass-deaths by human-caused tragedies, while Pestilence cover those from other living things while Famine has the natural disasters gig. This would mean that a plague of locusts is definitely one for Pestilence, while Famine would deal with meteor impacts. But don’t even get me started on green horses…
The lions weren’t alone in the Colosseum
To kill the priests –
Not that there were none,
But the Romans also had their fun
With boars, and bulls, and dogs, especially dogs,
To be the beasts.
Their moment was the lunchtime lull
When public executions filled the interval –
And some, I guess, were Christians,
Making up the Lions’ feasts.
Of course, a Colosseum death
Was for the criminals –
And Christians weren’t often used
To feed the animals.
Persecution was rarer than lions –
It happened, but only in spurts.
But how to vilify Roman indiff’rence
And un-martyred lack-of-hurts ?
We needed far more dramatic saints,
So unleash the lions and uncork the paints !
I saw a bird in town today,
Pecking round the outdoor cafe tables –
Plucking up the crumbs astray,
Then flitting off to perch atop the gables.
I only saw a smidgeon,
Of a flash of green upon the fowl –
So not the usual pigeon,
Nor a bully blackbird on the prowl.
I thought I saw some speckles,
But it surely couldn’t be a thrush ?
I’d wager seven shekels
That they’d never brave this market crush.
So, it’s not a mavis, then –
Too small and bright for crow or rook, I’d say,
Too big for sparrow or a wren,
And far too dark for chaffinch or a jay.
A parakeet ? Baloney !
And even I know magpies from a robin !
That leaves the starling only –
But then, just where were all the others mobbing ?
I sacrificed a sandwich prawn
To tempt it down, my enigmatic bird –
And yes, it took my proffered pawn
And yes !, a starling straggled from the herd.
Don’t you have meadows to pirouette over ?
Don’t you have siblings all missing their rover ?
Are you an orphan, or outcast, or rebel
They taught to caw bass, but who wants to sing treble ?
Or are you a mute who can not hold a ditty,
Now seeking your fortune within the big city ?
I’m much the same, really, I came for the glory –
So here, have a peanut, and tell me your story.
To comment that Nature is always in balance
Is viewing it just in the shortest of terms –
Infact, as the countless extinctions all show
How the strong will go on, and the weak will just go.
For Nature exploits with its various talents,
From predator apex to parasite worms,
With no thought for planning or smoothing-out quirks –
And the law of the jungle is ‘whatever works’.
Like the tusks of a babirusa
Or a peacock’s sexy tail,
Nature will often fail through greed –
And as for the losers, let them all bleed !
From ancient bacteria breathing out oxygen,
Right upto elephants knocking down trees,
They do it regardless, they live for today –
And the balance keep shifting, and life finds a way.
So don’t think of Nature as perfection’s proxy
When plague-rats are swarming with some new disease –
For humans could not be more nat’ral, in truth,
When Nature is selfish and red in the tooth.
Like the cheetah and gazelle,
It’s an arms race to the bottom
The tree of life is rotten through
With its endless fascination for the new.
But warnings are warnings – why must we resist them ?
We still haven’t learned not to piss in the wadis –
We poison ourselves when we poison our neighbours –
The stables need cleaning, but nobody labours.
And sure, we are smart, but we’re part of the system –
For just as our thoughts are a part of our bodies,
So bodies are Nature, and Nature is us –
As perfectly nat’ral as cancer and pus.
Like the lemmings booming and busting,
There’s too many of us, however clever
But Nature’s balance is never still –
And if we can’t fix it, other life will.
A neighbour, it was, who alerted us,
Alerted himself by the muffles within –
Apologising for making a fuss,
“I’m no busybody, and she’s hardly kin,
That’s why it took me this long to call –
If only I knew my neighbours at all.”
I worked for the landlord’s agent, so
I grabbed my coat and signed-out keys
And hopped on a passing 220
To Fulham, above the Cantonese,
Lift not working, second floor,
With a gentle tap upon the door –
No reply, except some mewing –
So I rapped again, then risked the lock,
Announcing myself and what I was doing –
Sudden guest can be quite a shock.
Nobody home (though the stench was strong) –
It turned out I was very wrong.
She sat upon her sofa, asleep,
With two cats guarding her, agitated,
The kitchen another three cats deep,
And a sixth who snuck in while I waited,
Calico, Siamese, blacks and tawny,
Most of them hissing, all of them scrawny.
I knelt down beside the tenant then,
Gently touched the back of her hand –
The coldness a jolt, but I touched her agen,
And all I could think of was all I’d got planned
For that afternoon – all now postponed,
While windows were opened and constables phoned.
The cats were making ev’rything harder,
They’d made a mess, and were clearly starving –
I found some tins of food in the larder,
The way they fell upon it was jarring.
Flies aplenty upon the ceilings,
I fought down all my nauseous feelings.
The undertakers had taken her
By six, so careful and so unblinking.
I stayed away in the kitchen, shaken,
Stroking the cats to stop from thinking.
The PCs left the place to me,
The neighbour popped-in with a cup of tea.
“I don’t think she had family, really,
Kept herself alone, poor mite,
Except her cats, she loved them dearly –
What’ll become of them, tonight ?”
I scooped one up to work her charms,
Into his unexpecting arms.
Another neighbour took another,
I badgered the landlord to take a brace,
And one to my less-than-happy mother,
And as for the last, she’s at my place –
This job, right down to its chromosomes,
Is all about providing homes.
The Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola –
Why the adjective at all ?
Why the need for double mola ?
Is it cos they’re so un-small ?
Just a puffed-up pufferfish,
And over-named to double-check –
It moons around encumbered
By this millstone round its neck.
And yet, it turns out, other sunfish
Share the genus and the name –
And even unrelated fish
Are rashly called the same.
So fair enough, the ocean kind
Is thusly dubbed to be precise.
And as for mola-of-the-Mola –
It’s so good, they named it twice.