Retro Virus

cold virus
Human Rhinovirus by Wellcome Images


Retro Virus

My my, little virus, haven’t you been busy,
Clogging up my sinuses, roughing up my throat –
You naughty little virus, you’ve left me low and dizzy,
All watered in my eyeball and shivered in my coat.
Oh my word, what hell you are !
You’re truly undesirous –
But I am multicellular,
And you are such a little virus…

I may be fevered hazily,
And sorely dripping nasally,
But I will beat you back – by deuce –
With peppermints and orange juice !
I may be rasping breathily,
But you won’t be the death of me;
It’s hardly some acute bronchitis,
Just your rhinopharyngitis.

Now there are tons of nasty bugs
Resistant to our latest drugs:
Herpes, hepatitis, rabies,
Take our lovers, take our babies.
You are nothing like those thugs,
You’re even less a pest than scabies.
Best you manage is to tire us –
Call yourself a proper virus ?

But best of all, you’ve given me the cure:
You’re down and dead and done, and that’s your lot.
Your brothers may infect me further, sure,
But you will not.  This was your only shot.
Your end is nigh, so take your bow,
For look, here come my t-cells now.

And next time you come plumbing,
Then you won’t catch me succumbing,
Cos I’ll spy you with my clear, unstreaming iris;
I’ll smell your protein codes
And I’ll taste your lipid nodes
And I’ll eat you up, you puny little virus.

And should your children come my way
Mutated in disguise,
They maybe lay me low, but hey,
It won’t be me who dies.



That I Might Know the Proof of You



That I Might Know the Proof of You

Eeza geezer, Dionysus.
Gizza nuzzer to entice us
Inniz wurship – God of Gordons.
Bollocks to them prudy wardens
Sipping on their PG Tipsy,
Brewing herbs like any gypsy.
Scoring tuts they hope will crack us.
Help to keep us drunk, oh Bacchus !
Make us all too sloshed to care,
And stink our belches, glaze our stare –
Then dull their nagging, blur their saga.
Piss me up, oh Lord of Lager !
Spirits call me to your shrine;
Visions fill me, Vine Divine !
Awe-full shakes set me a quiver.
Take this sacrifice: my liver.



Linnaean quanta



Linnaean quanta

The thing about Phylums and Classes and Orders and all:
They don’t really mean very much, from a-one to another –
They don’t show a definite border or wall,
Except that each member within is a brother.
But how shall we simply compare, say, a Fam’ly of fishes
With Fam’lies of insects or fungi, or some other race –
For nature won’t readily yield to our wishes
For systems and schemes with all life in its place.

What’s needed are rankings that indicate something specific,
Like maybe the age when such clades were diverging anew –
There must be a way to be more scientific
That merely to shrug and decide “this’ll do”.
Then maybe some Kingdoms or Phylums will prove to be hoarders,
While others lack class in their Classes, now under-supplied.
So finally, let’s bring an order to Orders,
And give ev’ry Genus some Family pride.


It always struck me that the Linnaean ranks would be more useful if either all of their inhabitants shared a minimum percentage of genes, or alternatively that they were diverging at roughly the same time as all the others of that rank.



A Poet to His Surgeon

two person doing surgery inside room
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on


A Poet to His Surgeon

You know me much closer and touch me much deeper
Than any could ever before –
You bring to your table this soundest of sleepers,
And open me up to explore.
You rend me asunder with gentleest plunder,
To survey my hintermost-lands;
You ease my distress with your tender caress,
With my life firmly held in your hands.



Do Kings Play Chess on Fine Green Silk ?



Do Kings Play Chess on Fine Green Silk ?

Henry moves his vertebrates,
And Louis tunes his tunicates,
While Malcolm swims his sharks and skates
To battle Olaf’s ranks of starfish pawns.
Boris risks bacillus rods
To fight with Oskar’s fungal squads,
As Richard launches octopods
To counter Philip’s shrimp-less group of prawns.
So James arrays his gymnosperms,
Like Ferdinand his cyan germs,
And Otto’s nematody worms,
At Charles’ yet-to-be-discovered spawns.


I should point out that the title is a mnemonic for the Linnaean ranks of life: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus & Species.  Actually, Domain is a relatively new addition, and plants have Divisions instead of Phylums (or Phyla if you’re a pedant), and the whole thing now looks hopelessly simplistic in the wake of cladistics, but it’s still a handy starting-point.




Eyelash Mites – you’ve probably got them and didn’t even realise



I’ve mites on my lashes,
And yeasts in my guts,
And hundreds of species
Of germs on my skin;
But not cos of rashes,
Or buboes or cuts,
Or dry parts or greasies,
Or illness within.

For ev’ry itch I curse,
There lurk my lurkers:
I know you’re there, my pretties
And I know I am your food.
My constant hitch-hikers:
My loafers and workers.
You are my troops, my cities,
You’re my nations and my brood.

Way down my intestines
Are hundreds of others,
Who outpace each cell
In my body by ten;
And while some infestings
Are life-giving brothers.
They yet could rebel
If they turn pathogen.

For ev’ry inch of me,
I am outnumbered;
And long before my birthing
Saw you terraform my loam.
I thrive unflinchingly,
Yet so encumbered.
Be gentle with this earthling
As you make yourselves at home.



Since I wrote this, the theory that bacterial cells outnumber our own by 10:1 has been called into question, and a figure of 4:1 is now proposed.  Alas, I have already rhymed with ‘ten’, so it has to stay.



Overwhelmed by Subtlety

Cup & Saucer made from Earl Grey Tea Bags by D Postlethwaite


Overwhelmed by Subtlety

You undergo life just a little too much,
You taste ev’ry nuance and stray molecule
In vision and sound and in palate and touch,
You never can blend them to seamless and whole.
But the good and the bad must equally live
Inextricably encurled –
You are, I fear, too sensitive,
To suffer this imperfect world.


This verse was inspired by a friend who insists she can’t use teabags because she can taste the paper.