One Plant’s Meat is Another Man’s Garden

more common than you'd think
Hemlock, as shown in Medizinal-Pflanzen (Medicinal Plants) by Franz Köhler


One Plant’s Meat is Another Man’s Garden

Hemlock won’t kill us,
Despite all its poison,
(And not for the warnings that textbooks all parrot.)
For why would we eat it, right there in the hedgerow ?
It doesn’t look that much like parsley or carrot.

Since when do we sample the leaves and the berries
Of any old weed in the wild ?  How bizarre !
We buy all our veg from the market and grocer,
Who hopefully know what the diff’rences are.

And meanwhile we cherish the monkshood and foxglove,
And nurture their weapons without any fuss.
But hey, there’s no danger admiring their flowers,
For light cannot carry their toxins to us.

Buttercups, daffodils, rosemary, poppies,
And holly and ivy, and conkers and yew.
We’re much more at risk from a field of grain –
From the carbs that we bake, or the booze that we brew.

Animals know well to leave them alone,
Whether ragwort to nightshade – just ask any herder.
And humans will likewise spit bitterness out –
So we won’t die of hemlock…unless it is murder !



Sudden Death

no gate


Sudden Death

The game goes on, despite the news,
Despite the empty stands –
No pre-match build up now, of course,
No captains shaking hands.
With silence as the coin is tossed,
But not born of suspense –
Then the ref’s whistle deafens
But you couldn’t call it tense.
The sound of boot-on-ball
And teammate calls are very clear
Even from the back row,
Has the action felt so near ?
Except, from our separate sofas
On this long, long afternoon,
They might as well be playing
On the far side of the Moon.
The empty seating does not care
What happens down the wing
And though the cameras catch it all,
Their ops don’t want to sing.
Like a stand-up cracking belters in rehearsal
To an empty hall,
The elephant in the stadium’s
Not trumpeting at all.
A goal is barely celebrated,
No-one’s bellicose –
Their tackles are half-hearted,
They’re unsure of getting close.
A pigeon pecks the touchline
And the players work their shift –
As if the world has changed the channel,
Cutting them adrift.
It all feels rather academic,
Pondering the score –
For does a lonely goal still count
If no-one’s there to roar ?



The Green & The Red

shepherds' warning
Maiasaura & Azhdarchid by Wayne Barlowe


The Green & The Red

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.



Cocky & Fishy



Cocky & Fishy

Candirus – do they ?
No.  They don’t.
Firstly they can’t,
And second, they won’t.
They parasite gills –
Not penises, ever.
They’d suffocate up there –
That wouldn’t be clever.

They don’t swim up pee-streams
(Even if laminar),
Cos fluid dynamics
Need far too much stamina.
They haven’t a tool
To wedge your tool wide,
Nor have they the strength
To push up inside.

So next time you’re spreading
A rumour or two
That deep down you desp’rately
Want to be true,
When pissing on truth
Cos it pleases your gut –
Recall the candirus
And keep your hole shut.



“Tell me more of this Earth thing called kissing”



“Tell me more of this Earth thing called kissing”

The trouble with your aliens
Is in their heads and mouths and eyes –
It’s that they even have these things
On Barnard’s Star and Saturn’s rings.
‘Convergent evolution’ can’t explain
Your humans in disguise –
It takes much more to say ‘out there’
Than silver skin and purple hair.

I know, I know, you still need human actors
Who can play them –
And we, the audience, must read
Emotions in each xeno-breed.
But honestly, such life should be
As branches from a foreign stem –
So vastly diff’rent body-planned,
So freshly-weird and oddly-grand.

So think beyond the tooth and arm,
The exo-shell and tentacle !
The trap your aliens befall –
They just ain’t alien at all.
For why would humans stride the stars
If space is all identical ?
Let’s have some art and CGI
That let imaginations fly !



Lonely Virion

you know who


Lonely Virion

Viruses are feeble, really –
Just can’t hope to make it
In this dangerous Outside –
There they are, alone and naked,
Lucky to survive a day or two,
Before they’re on the slide –
There’s nothing they can do, and there’s nowhere they can hide.
The trouble is, they’ve got no drive,
They’re just too small.
Chances are, they’ve died
Before we even can decide
If they ever were alive at all.

A little soap will crack them open,
Ultra vi’let shakes them to their core –
Or else they get digested by a passing virivore –
(High in protein, high in fat,
What germ could ask for more ?)
And if not that,
Then while they’re out there, waiting to congeal,
They cannot reproduce and cannot heal.
So keep them on the Outside, that’s the deal –
Until they all go splat.



Twenty Seconds

washing hands


Twenty Seconds

Eeny meeny, counted Queenie,
Fingers one two three and four –
A fish alive and thumb makes five,
And on the other hand there’s more.
So rub-a-dub and squeeze and scrub,
And this little piggie wee wee wee
Index middle ring and little,
Pinkie perky owe-you-tee.

Queenie went to market
To buy a bar of soap
She went to Deal and Margate,
And Cape Town on the Hope,
But a laundry-maid from Washington
Had bought up ev’ry crate,
So Queenie had to wash with none
But ashes from the grate.

Queenie on her lone and only,
All her friends are all indoors –
All down with spots and chicken pox,
And tummy-aches and sores.
Queenie finds the streets are empty,
Like the swings and slides and stores –
They cannot come and play today,
They’ve all been through the wars.



Twinge Whinge

woman touching her nose
Photo by Brandon Nickerson on


Twinge Whinge

If it’s true just as they say
That that which does not kill today
Shall only make us stronger yet
Then boy !- for all the bugs I get,
For all the lurgies, all the flus,
The injuries and aches and ooze –
For all of that, I should, I vow,
Be bloody Superman by now !



Free Mulling

time is in the mind


Free Mulling

“No Free Will” can mean two different things –
The first of these is in our brains
That we’re simply biological robots,
Thinking we’re free but forever in chains.

The second is that the Future exists,
It already exists, so it has to arrive –
And the only way from here to there
Is to give up choice and to let fate drive.

According to boffins, it’s out of our hands,
That we’re all algorithms just floating in space,
And the only uncertainty’s not us, but quantum,
And anyway time is all over the place.

Now I know pressure, and I know predictable,
And I know duality – a body and a soul –
But minds are physical, products of biology,
Not separate from bodies, but under their control.

And yet…And yet…
Honestly ?
I mean, yes, I get what they’re trying hard to say,
But it doesn’t sit with me.
I don’t feel a slave even on the dullest day –
You know, I’m feeling pretty free.
And yes, we could be programed so we never notice anyway,
Or maybe we’re just bluffing.
I mean, we’re self-aware – does that count for nothing ?,
Not that the universe would care.
But when it’s down to tails or heads,
To blues or reds,
Or jazz or blues,
That barely even matters which we choose.
Well…have we still the power to refuse ?

And as for that time thing…what’s there to discuss ?
How did the future even get ahead of us ?
They say it isn’t set,
That we still get to select,
Except, of course, except,
That the causes haven’t happened yet,
But all of the effects are in effect.

But come on, we all know that it’s bollocks !
Of course we all get to make a choice,
We’re not all living in a virtual simulation,
And there is no cosmic script that we must voice,
Now normally I show respect to scientists,
But normally they have to prove their stuff –
So I’ll rely on common sense and take responsibility,
And I’ll be free, at least – or free enough.



Richard Feynman

galactic wine


Richard Feynman

I heard him say the universe
Is held within a glass of wine –
And yes, it’s true there’s science,
Even at the table when we dine –
The way the light reflects, refracts –
The way the liquid lets it shine –
The glass that’s made from sand-made-clear,
By how its molecules align –
And evolution never sleeps,
To accident’ly sculpt the vine.
So let me raise a toast to Richard
With this universe of mine.