It’s all Greek to me

It’s all Greek to me

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…?

My Bang’s Bigger Than Yours

My Bang’s Bigger Than Yours

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.

Crystal

A selection from Pluto’s Jewelry

Crystal

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).

Book-Nosed Lukas

Duria Antiquior (Ancient Dorset) by Henry De la Beche, coloured and updated by Richard Bizley

Book-Nosed Lukas

Pterosaurs weren’t dinosaurs –
And so says Lukas, keen to crow.
You know what, Lukas ?  We already know.
And neither were the mosasaurs,
And ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs,
Dimetridon or sarchosuchus –
Come on, Lukas, don’t harp on so.

Sometimes, Lukas, we’ll play ball,
Cos evolution’s cool and all –
But we also need a name instead
To call all things that’re scaly, big, and dead.
We need a widely-recognised file,
A catch-all term, a handy pile –
But one that leaves out bird and crocodile.

With chapter, verse, and nomenclature ?
Oh, don’t be such a whiny bore,
By giving us a minus score
In your self-waging, name-defining war –
Lumbering and out-of-date,
We’ve got your number, Lukas, mate –
You’re such a dinosaur !

Sonic Screwdrivers

Sonic Screwdrivers

The English tongue is a toolkit
To unlock those very English sounds
In a well-oiled perfect fit.
The Scots and Welsh have tongues that sit
At a slightly diff’rent angle each
So’s not to mangle all those subtle bits of brogue
That abound within their speech.
Americans are yet more rogue,
Dismissing our metric metre
For their own iambic feet and inches –
They prefer their rhotic burr to ring,
With a tongue that sounds the sweeter
And a throat that swells and pinches
Fine enough to let it sing.
But none of we Anglophones are great
At sounding French, or Japanese –
We haven’t the tools we need for these.
And that’s okay – we still can try,
And even if we’re second-rate,
There’s no need to be shy.
The thing is, no two individual tongues
Are contoured quite the same
They vary how they’re ribbed and strung,
And where they set their aim.
So if we were to slur your foreign name next time we call,
It’s just because our tongues are curled the other way, that’s all.

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

Photo by Nick Demou on Pexels.com

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.