Life, it seems, is ev’rywhere,
An opportunist spiv:
And ev’ry nettle, ev’ry rat,
And ev’ry spider, ev’ry gnat,
And ev’ry roach and snake and bat,
Is one more proof of nature’s flair
Through evolution’s sieve.
So love each thriving organism:
Dry-rot, fly-bot, feral pigeon;
Life, it seems, is ev’rywhere,
It cannot help but live.
First there was sunlight and bedrock and ocean,
And acids amino, all churned in a dance;
When somethings were randomly formed in that potion
Of nutrient flow in a soupy expanse.
They hadn’t a thought or a want or a notion,
They hadn’t the know that they’d barely a chance;
They had no creator to watch with devotion,
So where could they go, and just how to advance ?
But networks were working and systems in motion
Which favour and grow and compete and enhance:
And so, life is life – a fluky explosion,
A spawny crescendo to blind happenstance.
There in the middle of my cheeks,
I swear – I bear the mark of freaks !
These cavities my face must wear
Just undermine my steely stare –
These hollow hickeys suck the chic
From out my compromised physique.
Oh, why must I be cursed to share
The pinched-in dimples of the meek ?
I’d sooner acne, pox or freckles
Than these intermittent craters –
Hardly think my lips need echoes
Just to show my cheeks are traitors.
But such is their two-faced work
That turns a smile into a smirk.
Alas, they’re written in my cells –
The cheesiest of tells.
Why on me and not my brother,
Nor my cousins, aunts or nieces ?
But the worst is how my mother
Loves to chub my surplus creases.
Hardly wonder all that froth
Would drive my teenage self to goth.
I felt far safer with a frown
When their depressions could not bring me down.
I always promised that I wouldn’t let them show,
Or that I’d let my whiskers grow.
But if you like to see such flam on me
Feel free – but never tell me so !
I guess we’re wrinkled when we’re born,
Or else that’s how my face has worn.
I guess I should maintain a scowl,
Or slather on the botox with a trowel.
Dented, vented, wrecked and rent
Is really not my style –
I guess this must be what is meant
When faces crack a smile.
Did I once gurn on a change of breeze
To trap my grin within parentheses ?
I wish my apple cheeks were fruitless
From this taint of enforced cuteness.
Her hair is purest white, not quite,
Her skin is hinted bisque,
Her eyes are palest blue in hue,
Her lips are coral kissed.
Her subtleties of shade displayed
Are never blanched, but lush;
And with a gentle goose, educe
A gorgeous crimson blush.
I would just like to add thatb the goose was consentual.
To the colony of mould upon my windowsill:
Show me just the slightest mark
Of sentience, a crucial spark
To show you’re rising from the dark,
Some gesture or some tiny act of will;
Show me that you are aware
And truly, shall I gladly spare
Your thinking self – it’s only fair
To leave you be, and curb my urge to kill.
It’s not your fault, of course, I know,
We cannot help the way we grow.
So demonstrate it can be so
With some discrete communiqué or skill.
But otherwise, I hereby state
I shall not balk, nor hesitate
To bring about your speedy fate,
And wipe you out from ev’ry crack you fill.
And with my conscience duly sated,
And my fears for health abated –
Now it’s time I contemplated
How to shift the mice behind the pepper mill.
I hear them scritching in their horde,
In cupboards and the skirting-board.
They cannot longer be ignored:
Their squeaks ring from the ventilation grille.
So rodents, let us parley, please:
I cannot have you stealing cheese,
Nor plaguing with your crop of fleas;
And yet, I hope we can co-habit still.
But only if you’re duly smart
To learn of hygiene – for a start –
And keep your soil well set apart
From places where it could pollute or spill.
And finally, let’s have agreed
A limit to how much you breed,
And maybe we can yet succeed
To forge a truce – forever and until.
But if you cannot learn the score
Then we, alas, must be at war
And if you doubt my lust for gore,
Just ask the mould no longer on my windowsill.
The beds that I’ve slept in, the beds that I’ve known:
Each harder than vapour and softer than stone,
From four-poster boasters to flea-bitten heaps –
I’ve sailed on their billows and sunk in their deeps.
From headboards to bedsteads, from duvets to sheets,
From brass-knobs to tassels, from casters to pleats,
With mattresses lumpy or stuffed to the seams:
They each one and ev’ry are beds of my dreams.
But they never will be perfect;
They’re close, but they never will.
In all my sleeping days alive
In which I ply my greatest skill,
The bliss of never-knowning five ayem
Is never quite as good in them.
However much they rest me,
They are always second-best –
Why climb the hill to Bedfordshire
To lie alone atop its crest ?
The bed I most desire to keep
Is in beside wherever you may sleep.
The beds that I’ve slept in, the beds I’ve called home:
To lie down on eiderdown, horsehair and foam.
From top-bunk to futon, from hammock to cot,
I’ve slept in the worst and the best of the lot.
Springs within pockets and springs within springs,
From the smallest of cribs to the sizes of kings.
A third of our lives is spend under your care,
From a bench in a park to the Great Bed of Ware.
One night, I swear I’ll drift away,
A hundred years a-snore,
And float amid the elves and fay
To where no dreamers dare explore,
And free my delta-waves to play
Where only Nemo came before.
Until I’m tossed upon your shore again,
To share once more your counterpane.
For the perfect place for counting sheep
Is right beside wherever you may sleep.
The title comes from Shakespeare, though not from his plays.