Exoskeletons

Exoskeletons

Insides on the outside.
I was always told
That they’re rigid suits of armour
That cannot stretch or fold –
Usually, the process is
To shed, and swell, and harden –
And that’s their lot, till next they moult –
No piling all the lard on !
But the sloughing of the shell enables
Fixing dings and missing limbs –
And that’s why adult lobsters
Keep on shrugging off their skins.
They don’t increase that much in size,
But do perform repairs –
Though there is danger here as well,
When things go wrong downstairs –
Not to mention getting trapped half-way,
Their robes un-doffed,
Or creeping-in mutations,
Or if gobbled-up when shedder-soft.
So long-lived lobsters in the end
Just wear the same old clothes,
And adult insects die before
The wear-and-tearing shows –

And mostly this is true –
But creatures are a funny lot,
And odd ones swarm into the mind
Like ants around a honeypot.
To pluck out one example,
Just ask a termite queen
Why her bum looks big it that
While her subjects are so lean ?
And she’ll reply,
“My abdomen was once a slender thing,
But see how it slowly stretches year-by-year,
And king-by-king.
And though I’m decades-old
And my body marked with time,
I’m very well-attended
To keep me in my prime –
I since I lie about all day,
What need I beauty for ?
Or even care for working legs
Which barely reach the floor ?
The changing fashions of the young are not for me,
My togs are fine –
I take-in food and pop-out eggs
In this old skin of mine.”

Glabrous Glands

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Glabrous Glands

Facial hair is not for me,
It’s written in my genes –
And no amount of herbal tea
Or eating up my greens
Can furnish on my chinny-chin
A burst of bushy thatch,
But just the look of unwashed skin
For itchy nails to scratch.
You may think me unmanly
And my smooth-cheek a disgrace,
But then, not just the dandy
Has to sport a spotless face.
I guess I’ll never put to sea,
Or be a hermit, blind –
The hussar’s life is not for me,
Nor evil mastermind.

The Rhythm of Life

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The Rhythm of Life

I cannot dance to seven-four,
It always sound so incomplete –
The lines are rushing, overkeen,
They jump the gun, they crash the scene.
It’s never seven-to-the-floor
That jolts me up out of my seat –
We talk in trochees, think in rhyme,
We walk and breathe in common time.

Heartbeats are waltzes, though –
Three-four and quick-quick-slow,
Atrium, ventricle,
In-out-rest metrical,
Pulse and diastole,
ONE two (three) ONE two (three)…

I cannot dance to seven-four,
I nod along, but off the beat –
It may be close enough for jazz,
But lacking somehow in pizzazz –
For music isn’t just the score,
We have to feel it in our feet –
And I have two, not one or three,
So what use surplus notes to me ?

My hips ain’t sound technicians,
My feet ain’t math’maticians,
So they’re losing their positions,
When the bar keeps on clipping,
When the beat keeps on slipping,
Till my sole fills the hole
With the wrong sort of tripping.

I cannot dance to seven-four,
I don’t possess such odd-timed feet,
I’m not a pro, I’m just a guy
Who wants to groove, not reason why –
And dancing shouldn’t be a chore,
I shouldn’t have to count the beat,
So call me boring, call me white,
But four-four lets me dance all night.

Dürer’s-Rhino Syndrome

The Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer, though don’t ask me if it’s the right way round.

Dürer’s-Rhino Syndrome

Toothy-mawed pteranodon,
A stegosaur who drags its tail,
Old T-Rex with no feathers on,
Dimetrodon with a humpy sail –
However much they’re wrong,
At least they never hem or hedge –
They’re always big and bold and cutting edge !

Pity the paleo-artists
Who bring these skeletons to life,
Who are the public midwife
To a thousand playground dreams –
No sooner have they started,
When a fossil or a paper
Is transforming facts to vapour
And is picking at the seams.

One day, in a century,
They’ll laugh at our sauropods
For not swimming in the sea –
No wonder how they look so odd…
No matter how carefully
We draw iguanodon his thumb,
We are the Crystal Palace beasts to come.

Pity the paleo-artists,
Their work is only for today –
For if they don’t give way,
Then their errors just persist.
But don’t be brash or heartless –
Their legacy is in the seeds
That captures, stimulates, and feeds
Each future dino-tologist.

Crystal Palace Iguanadons, sculpted by Benjamin Hawkins, photographed by Jes

Slow Poke

Slow Poke

Never drop your tardigrade in alcohol or acid, when
It isn’t curled-up tightly like a bun.
Never dehydrate it, or stop its oxygen,
Until all of its shrivelling is done.
Never heat your tardigrade a hundred-plus degrees,
Or blast it with a gamma ray, or leave it out to freeze,
Or send it into space, or in a pressure fit to squeeze –
Unless it is a hibernating tun.
If it’s slowly, slowly moving,
Best to leave it be –
For now is not the time for proving
Indestructibility.
For a tardy’s only hardy
When its legs no longer run…
But if it’s small and in a ball ?
Then sure, go have some fun.

London Pebble

London Pebble

I found a fossil in the park today –
An ammonite in iron grey,
Hardly rare, this type of fare,
They get found in their scores –
They all died by their millions
Till they died with the dinosaurs.

But all the rock round here today
Is built on London Clay –
On the scene in the Eocene,
With its lush and tropic shores,
Yet laid down some ten million
After the end of the dinosaurs.

I guess the path on which it sat
Was older than all that.
I guess its gravel had to travel
From who knows where, of course –
He’s an immigrant, like the millions
Coming here since the dinosaurs.

Though I suspect it’s less of an ammonite and more of a snail.

Mine For Life

Mine For Life

A running bump along my arm
Is memory that I was scarred –
The grave to mark a childhood tear
That now you’d scarcely know was there.
I got it playing down the farm,
Or maybe tripping in the yard –
I must have hit the surface hard,
But in the end did no real harm.
A trophy I must always wear,
A lesson learned, a minor scare –
I smile to think how I am marred,
And like to stroke it sometimes, like a charm.

It sits beside my first tattoo,
That’s self-administered, indeed –
A careless stab with ball-point pen,
A funny-coloured freckle, then.
It used to be a deeper blue,
As if I’m of a noble breed –
It must have hurt, but didn’t bleed,
And now just sits there, still in view.
I could not even tell you when,
But certainly by age of ten.
It can’t be scrubbed, it can’t be freed –
I like to poke it sometimes, as y’do.

Hairshirts

Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Hairshirts

Hey, have you seen this ?  Chillis give us allergies !,
I watched it on The One Show and I read it in The Mail.
Never mind the experts – they claim our claims are fallacies,
Yet we know how we feel – and we’re feeling rather frail.

Hey, have you caught this ?  Cucumbers cause impotence !,
I found it on the internet – it’s all there if you dig.
So much for ‘mostly water’ !  That’s Big Salad’s influence,
They pump them full of chemicals – that’s how they grow so big !

Hey, have you scoped this ?  Sweetcorn gives us cancer !
I heard it at a coffee-shop, and in a waiting room.
So sure, go ahead, if you want to be a chancer,
But know I told you so when those yellow lumps bring doom.

Hey, have you shared this, at Waitrose or Pilates?
Let’s spread the word and spread the fad, and let our bodies heal.
Let’s get some trendy diets at the nation’s dinner parties,
Then maybe I won’t have to taste those bastards ev’ry meal !

“I want to say one word to you, Benjamin, just one word…”

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“I want to say one word to you, Benjamin, just one word…”

Contact lenses, spectacles, disposable razors,
Medical heart-valves and pencil erasers,
Sterile packaging, gloss paints and superglues,
Motorcycle helmets, fibreglass canoes,
Polytunnel farming, gas- and gutter-piping,
Multicoloured buttons, and click-a-clacker typing,
Hygienic nappies, and vegan-friendly footwear,
And yes, all the litter that ev’rybody put there.

The truth is that we need it,
That we cannot live without it –
Except of course we did
Before we ever knew about it.
But look at all the progress that we’ve made –
Can we lose it all ?  I doubt it.

Self-healing polymers, handle-safe explosives,
Tin-can inner-linings to make contents less corrosive,
Lego bricks and credit cards, LPs that we cherish,
Electrical cables that will never fray or perish,
Damp proof courses, and cavity-foam walls,
Artificial limbs and teeth, table-tennis balls,
Satellite shielding, acoustic guitar strings,
Hyper-fibre optics, and a thousand other things.

The truth is that we need it,
That our lives are better for it –
We need to use it less,
But we surely can’t ignore it –
The future’s soft and flexible – be careful,
And we’ll all get to explore it.

Salisbury Cathedral Vaccination Centre

Christ Cleansing the Temple by Bernardino Mei

Salisbury Cathedral Vaccination Centre

Angels in the ceiling, salvation in the needles,
Organ practice in the air, the bishop looking proud –
Gone is the busyness of canons, deans, and beadles,
But the locked-up church can once again give welcome to the crowd.
Monks used to pray here, monks who ministered the sick –
But these days it is nurses who are rolling up the sleeves.
So what would Jesus say at their death-defying trick ?,
Their communion, regardless what each congregant believes.
Would he drive them out, back to their lab’ratories ?
Or would he get stuck-in with his newfound clientelle ?
Stained-glass in the windows, telling ancient stories –
Maybe in a thousand years, they’ll tell this one as well.