Ammonites are ceph’lopods
With spiralling shells,
A bit like the nautilus
With gas-chambered cells –
But larger and groovier,
These kings of the ocean,
These chosen of Amon,
These Jurassic movers,
These Cretaceous shakers –
In the Fathoms of Mammon,
From sea-beds to breakers,
Till the shark and the salmon
Cast out these apostles.
But there in the fossils,
Their statues awake…
Moabites are ceph’lopods
We’ve yet to discover
They’re out there, still buried,
In one rock or another –
And each slab we lever,
So hopes the believer,
May yet be inscribed
With this prodigal tribe:
A bit like a nautilus,
A bit like an octopus,
A bit unlike either.
And just like the ammonites,
They need us to free them –
We know not what they look like,
But we’ll know them when we see them.
What is this power
That holds up cathedrals ?
That bring in the pilgrims,
And keeps out the gales ?
It isn’t lord Jesus,
Nor bishops and beadles,
It isn’t the faithful,
Nor relics and grails.
Forget all the masons
With stone tetrahedrals,
Forget all their chisels,
And braces and nails –
The answer is columns !
Those load-bearing needles,
Those orderly uprights,
Those masts without sails.
And the finest of columns,
So stately and regal,
Use marble from Purbeck
In multiple scales.
Now, wildlife in Purbeck,
From roe-deer to seagulls,
From rabbits to lizards,
From fishes to whales,
Are nothing compared
To her beasts without equal –
But who are these heroes ?
Well, there hang some tales…
For hidden in hedgerows,
There lurk her great people:
Like bees in her fields,
And yeasts in her ales –
But her mightiest creatures
Have built ev’ry steeple:
The lime in the limestone
That polish unveils –
For marble from Purbeck
That holds up cathedrals,
Is held up in turn
By the shells of her snails.
Three-hearted, blue-blooded, copper in your veins,
Spending all your days just lounging on the reef,
Merging with the furniture, watching for the gains:
You pouncing, morphing, jetting, dancing, slinking, oozing thief,
You hunger-striking annual, blooming all too brief.
Bursting into action, but your stamina devoid,
You tremor-detecting, ink-ejecting, R-selecting chromataphoid.
With arms you cannot quite control in each particular,
Foraging and tasting with an independent mind.
Spirit-level eyes that will maintain their perpendicular,
With optic nerves all plugged-in from behind.
All of this intelligence, all of this complexity,
All this curiosity, all this raw dexterity;
And yet no society – such a lonely vexity you are;
And living far too short for such an eight-pointed superstar.
I’ve seen this spider around, I’m sure…
Yes, yesterday or the day before –
Precisely where she’s hangs right now,
So there she was before, I vow.
Hasn’t she got webs to spin –
I wonder if she’s dead, or just a skin ?
I’ve seen that spider around, I know,
Maybe a weeks or two ago –
I’m rarely here about my biz,
But when I am, well, there she is –
Hasn’t she got legs to move ?
A gentle blow…and yes !, she lives, I prove.
I’ve seen that spider around, I bet,
From month to month, we’ve clearly met.
She lurked right there, and always will –
Just dangling from her strand, so still.
Hasn’t she got flies to catch ?
I guess she must keep guard upon her patch.
I’ve seen that spider around, I’d swear –
This year, last year, she was there !
Hanging from the self-same thread –
And all I know is, she’s not dead.
Hasn’t she got eggs to lay ?
But I’ll forget her once I’m on my way.
When I wrote this, I had quite forgotten that I had already dealt with this topic two years earlier in Daddy Longlegs, which is uncomfortably similar. I’m also not really happy with using biz, but rhyme-needs must.
A cellar spider hangs in his web,
Head down, just where he always hangs –
He’s always on the same old strands,
Just waiting with the same old fangs.
Actually, is he dead ?
Or is this just his old skin suit ?
A gentle blow, and a gentle twitch
Confirms there’s life in the little brute.
I’ll pass again in a week or so –
I guess he’s eaten in between,
And maybe even met a girl,
And kept his cobweb nice and clean.
But then its back on the web to pose,
The same old web he proudly spun –
Until one day it’s time to go,
And pass the business to his son.
Unbeknownst to exis’tence,
Who lived in bodies, firm and dense,
There looked upon with apprehence
An unknown entity.
Beings of a diff’rent class,
Not formed of solid, liquid, gas:
For not one atom had they mass,
But weightless energy.
When they looked upon the Earth
In hill and cave and brook and firth,
They found the rocks had given birth
To life most tangible.
Life alive as mould and trees,
And slugs and crabs and honeybees,
And frogs and crows and chimpanzees,
With tooth and mandible.
“This is outright blasphemy !”
They screamed in thought-like energy
“For never life can ever be
Built with a hard physique.
And they live at such extremes
In ocean depths and fissure seams
And in another’s fluid streams.
With mutant-gained technique.”
Terrified by solid life
They blew apart this world-midwife,
For only there could such be rife,
And now it was destroyed.
Rock and lava shattered thence
And sped across the void immense,
Without a single thought or sense:
A thousand asteroids.
Thus were ended carbon forms
In fumigating magma storms,
Biomass now dusty swarms;
But all this life is hard to kill,
And even in the deathly chill
Of outer space, it’s clinging still:
Patient and tenacious
As the debris drifts afar,
So come the tugging of some star
Upon this frozen reservoir,
And bring about a thaw.
Let them countless orbits make,
And with an endless time to take;
One bacterium shall wake,
And life resume once more.
I cannot tell you why I should be so afraid,
Except I am.
Perhaps it’s evolution keeping me alive
That makes me scram.
But I have always hated spiders, big and small – Oh god, so small !
They’re lurking in this room, right now –
They lurk, until they crawl…
But sooner yet than later,
Then the peace between us must be made –
For I don’t want to be a hater,
When, oh please !, I hate to be afraid…
And with tarantulas – so big !- we get to see
Just how they’re built –
Their legs, their palps, their spinnerets,
Their onyx eyes and downy quilt…
Yet small ones have these too, too small to see –
But oh, they’ve got the lot,
Upon a strange and creeping body – Never let this be forgot !
But I am more than this, and greater –
I shall love them, I shall not be swayed.
For I don’t want to be a hater,
I don’t want to spend my life afraid.