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.
To and fro and fro and to –
A dragonfly is zagging-by,
His body shiny-new.
Ready for the slaughter,
With his goggles on and paint-job dry –
For three years, underwater,
He has somehow learned to fly.
A fighter jet, a microlight,
With wings of cellophane –
Drunk yet nimble in his flight,
He circles round, and round again.
A regal blur, a day-glow streak,
Who never rests from his deploy –
But when he does, he’s plastic-sleek:
This summer’s latest toy.
I meet him, though, in hot July,
Some distance from the river bank.
So jealous in his patch of sky,
He watches for a rival’s flank –
But they won’t come, and neither will
The ladies that he’s longing for.
So here he is, patrolling still:
A soldier who’s misplaced his war.
One day in our science class, we trooped out to the pond
And trawled our nets to haul a hoard from out the wet beyond.
We jamjarred up our specimens, our trove from out the deep,
And took our volunte‘ers back to have a proper peep.
The swimmers and the sediments were busy in their dance,
Or squished between the slides beneath our microscopic glance. Tadpoles and waterfleas, fresh-water shrimps, Algae and flatworms and dragonfly nymphs, Rotifers, water bears, snails by the score, Whilygigs, boatmen and duckweed galore.
But best of all, the hydra: the monster in our lake –
One day, or so the rumour went, it turns into a snake !
Hydra, hydra, Now that I’ve spied ya, I can’t decide what I love about you more: Your proof there’s a Zeus, or Your looks of Medusa ? Not hard to deduce you’re a snake down to your core.
Just think – an anaconda with a plethora of heads
To slither round the playing field and stalk the cycle sheds !
But Mrs Patrick told us no, the two did not equate,
For hydras were cnidarians, and snakes were vertabrates.
The former lacked a brain as such, and var’ous other parts –
(Though snakes, our teacher told us, were likewise not so smart,
And multi-headed mutants would attack their conjoined brothers)
But hydra bred asexually to be both spawn and mothers !
And better yet, they’d learned a trick for ageing without ageing
By morphing from their adult selves back to their childhood gauging –
So, rather like The Doctor, but with tentacles and stem.
I’d like to see old Herc attempt to kill off one of them !
They say you have a silent c Well, not with me ! Cknidarians, cknidarians, Aquatic antiquarians: Preserving ancient shapes and genes, Behold the mighty cknidarenes ! If only Greeks had known of you, Just think the myths that would ensue ! Instead, your polyps are maligned – Medusae, sure, but not the Grecian kind. Cknidarians, cknidarians, These water fairies dance about my mind.
I think it must have been a day
When ants were flying
A long and hot and wingèd day
When ants were flying
By and by.
And that was when we chanced to meet,
With grounded ants about our feet.
Those virgin queens and horny males,
On scorching days
In late July.
The queens fly fast to test the males
On scorching days
When ants must fly.
The lads were swarming when we met –
But then, one shot is all they get.
The lucky males take turns to mate
With picky queens
In late July.
Upon the wing, the ants shall mate –
As jacks and queens
Shall fill the sky.
And I met you beneath their flights,
With royal weddings in our sights.
The girls bite off their wings to reign
As wingless queens
In late July
These girls will never fly again –
But hey, the queens
At least don’t die !
And you and I were changing lives,
As queens got down to digging hives.
Don’t blame the woodlice,
It’s not they who rot our skirting –
Better they than flies or mice,
Whose numbers double in a twice,
Or roaches finding paradise
To go about their fruitful flirting.
If woodlice are abound,
Then yes, there’s something rotting –
But the woodlice are not plotting
How to spread the rot around.
So don’t blame the pillbugs
It’s not they who spread infection –
Better they than fleas or slugs,
Whose numbers lurk in cracks and rugs.
Or else mosquitos’ biting hugs
With who-knows-what in each injection.
If woodlice fill their jaws
Then yes, there’s something rotting
But the woodlice are just squatting –
They’re the symptom, not the cause.
Fine scallops and oysters
For townlands and cloisters,
And cockles and mussels – alive, sirs, alive !
Come find one and pluck it
From out of my bucket –
It’s yours for a penny – or fourpence for five.
…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay, …………Fresh from the sands where they thrive, oh ! …………Fresh from the beaches, and fresh ev’ry day – …………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !
There’s no need to scrimp it
With whelk or with limpet –
I’ll sell you no snails, sir – I’m clams through and through.
Don’t ask me for sprinkles
Of peries or winkles –
Why settle for one shell, when you can have two !
…………Fresh from the wash of the fair Irish Sea, …………Plucked-out as soon they arrive, oh ! …………Fresh from the sand to the boat to the quay – …………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !
There’s some who dig beaches
For lugworms and leaches,
But they make a slimy and wrigglesome catch.
And scampi and crab, sir,
Will scamper and jab, sir –
But mine are like eggs that are waiting to hatch !
…………Fresh from where seagulls love combing the sand, …………Fresh from where cormorants dive, oh ! …………Fresh from Portmarnock and Dollymount Strand – …………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !
So what do you say, sir,
To venus or razor ?
Just tease-out my beauties with jack-knife or steam.
They may hold a pearl, sir,
A feast for your girl, sir,
You’ll soon warm her cockles with cockles in cream !
…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay, …………Fresh for your ladies and wives, oh ! …………Fresh-in from Skerries and Claremont and Bray – …………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !