The history of trees is that The trees are not a clade – They spring-up from the strangest places, Evolution-made. So beech and birch are boring, All their family are so wooden, But others have the oddest kin And ev’ry one’s a good ’un. They’ve found the same solution Independently, you know – When stretching for the sunlight, well, There’s just one way to go.
So apple trees are strawberries That built a sturdy trunk, Yucca palms are bluebells If a bluebell were a hunk. Acacia trees are runner beans That bolted in their teens, While rubber trees are spurges That have stretched beyond their means. There’s only so much energy, And trees don’t like to share – They’re hungrier when taller, But their mouths are ev’rywhere !
So linden limes are cottons That have fluffed-up in the streets, And oranges are really rue Whose bitterness turned sweet. Finest teak is peppermint, That’s why it smells so nice – And eucalyptus is a clove That added too much spice. The forest is a battleground, And ev’ry plant must fight – So trees is what you always get, If what you get is height.
Hold this poem at arm’s length, And peer right through its O’s. Even the ones in lower case Contain an awful lot of space – But just how large is small , do you suppose ? Good try, but a little under-strength – Your guess is a tenth of a tenth of a tenth.
Within that ringlet, give or take, Between the billion nitrogens, Are photons – streaming on a breeze From fifty thousand galaxies, Upon a thoughtful mind or friendly lens – As through the page, within its wake, The universe is on the make.
We should put up statues To the mice that we have doctored, That we’ve prodded in the genome, And remodelled in the womb. We should hail as heroes All these spidermen of rodents With their mutant-managed powers That we twist and splice and groom.
Quick-grown maturity, Inbred for purity, With white fur unblemished, While their cultured cells outlive them. Red-eyed and pink-eared, Stripped-down and re-geared, Free of fleas and all disease (Except the ones we give them).
I try not to think of how much pain We put them through – It’s what we have to do To avoid the pain ourselves, I guess. They’ve brought us so much gain, But we’re too ashamed to speak it – The sterile dirty little secret of our great success.
We should sing a ballad To the mice who helped us conquer Tuberculosis, polio, Leukaemia and measles. Or give a quiet thank-you When a treatment proves effective – They keep us safe from swine-flu, So we keep them safe from weasels.
Dozens, hundreds, millions, A well-groomed swarm resilient – And when they die, attended by A white-frockcoated mourner. These un-cavy guinea-pigs, These wheel-running whirligigs, These supermodel-organisms Squeaking in the corner.
I try not to think how many mice Have died for me, Have lived a life of agony Because they are expendable, I guess. They are the devil’s price For our seeming immortality – Our flexible morality, that drives us to progress.
The stars only show up When we open up our eyes, With our pupils set on f-2 To maximise the skies. With focus to infinity To catch the light-years light And fast-films for retinas To turn the blackness bright. Our long-exposure eyelids Are timed to lift their veil – Thirty seconds is enough, Or else the stars will trail. And then our nerves develop it With not a blur nor wrinkle – It’s just a little grainy As the pinpoints gently twinkle.
Tag, goes the virus, And suddenly, I’m it, Chasing, and panting, And laughing, and transmit. No rules for no-backsies, It’s free-for-all, all day No sitting this one out, We’re all of us in play. They say this game is older Than ancient Babylon. Now I’ve given you my secret – Pass it on.
Somewhen early in the tetrapods, The limbs all ended in fives. They weren’t placed there by any gods, But by whatever survives. And even then, the fifth was smaller, With one joint fewer to flex – So even when we stood-up taller, The same stubby thumb projects.
Somewhen early in the primate time, We took to trees when stressed, And found our thumbs could help us climb If they opposed the rest. And so they carried, worked, and threw, With a thumbs-up and okay, When the runt of the fin with knuckles-two Hitched a ride on its DNA.
Somewhen, late in far far future, We may make do with fewer – Our pinkie, perhaps, a vestigial moocher, No longer much of a doer. Just ask the horses, running on one finger, The others written-out of their glands – Best to keep using ’em, that the way they’ll linger, For genes have little use for idle hands.
The lurgy has broken my sleeping – Sweated, disrupted, and long. With headaches and backaches from keeping A posture my joints say is wrong. Repeating the same-old distresses Again and again, like a glitch in the stream – A nightmare that never progresses, A scratch in the grooves of a dream. But the night will pass, And with it this slough – It cannot last, I just have to live it for now. What once was a refuge is fevered and seeping, Brought on by this succubus lodged in my chest – The lurgy has broken my sleeping, And left me in need of a rest.
Ev’ryone thinks of Alpha, Alpha waves and alpha dogs – Beta has its beta blockers, Beta tests and beta logs – Gamma gives us gamma rays, And tennis gives us Gamma strings – And Delta – so much Delta ! With its rivers and its wings But no-one thinks of Omicron, As obscure as you get, What excitement could there be In the bowels of the alphabet…?
Astronomers love hydrogen, And hydrogen alone – The primal, elemental gas, That lights up the unknown. They’re not so keen on helium, But tolerate it still – But hydrogen’s their number one, They just can’t get their fill !
Astronomers hate lithium, As dense and overweight, And ev’rything beyond it is Too scarce to even rate. They label them as ‘metals’, As a grey and seething mass – Yes, even carbon, even sulphur, Even chlorine gas.
Astronomers know metaloids Have properties each shares, But magnets and electron soups Are no concern of theirs, And dabbling in impurities Requires them to atone – For ‘stronomers love hydrogen, And hydrogen alone.
Her ring finger bore a feldspar, And her next a polished flint, Her index bore the starry glint Of mica or calcite – whichever is bright. Her other hand was nothing but quartz – Citrine, rose and amethyst. While silicon zircons circled her wrist. She said she liked them because they were like her, Mirroring their wearer, Displaying her worth – Common, yet polished into something rarer, As cheap as dirt, yet the salt of the Earth.
A zircon is not the same as a cubic zirconium – the latter is zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), whereas the indestructible mineral is zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4).