Our Z’s are zeds, our maths is plural, Routs are rooted, herbs are heard, And Y’s are added to news and mural, Post and petrol are preferred. And then, we spell things diff’rently, Like U’s in colour, E’s in grey, We favour biscuits with our tea, And get our chips from a takeaway,
The trouble is, we’re losing. These days, all the art we get, The culture and the etiquette Is blowing to our shores And when we make our own, we’re choosing Ways to make it more like yours. We’ve lost our national confidence, I guess, We seem to export less, As our markets flood with Yankee slang And though we tut and though we chide, Our countrymen will each decide To stop the war and join your gang.
Many moth and butterflies Are wearing genders proud – Males are coloured-up as males, And ladies sport theirs loud. But back when they were caterpillars, They dressed all the same, Until their pupas split to show the world, As out they came. It’s not like they have any choice, Deciding which they’d rather – They’re future’s set before they’re laid, The sons become the fathers. It must be hard to be a parent Waiting long to be amazed, As your kids emerge from their cocoons And you see what sort you raised. Except…a very few can play both sides, Maintain the riddle – With two wings boys and two wings girls, And split straight down the middle. Alas they cannot breed, these ones, They’re an incidental plus – When it comes to sexual selection, It’s the others who choose for us.
Of course, by the time most caterpillar pupate, their parents are long gone. A few butterflies such as the tortoiseshell can hibernate over the Winter, though of course these are the ones which emerged late in the previous year and they don’t mate until the following Spring.
The Bible lumps the bats in with the birds, And oh, how we sneer. “A mammal is no more a fowl Than a dragonfly is like an owl.” But hang-on, none of those are Hebrew words, So none of those appear In the ancient texts – they’re our translations, Sent back in time to new vocations.
Maybe what we think meant ‘bird’ to them Meant simply ‘thing that flies’ – And likewise whales are fish that swim, And snakes are worms for lacking limbs. It’s unscientific, so we condemn, But that don’t mean it’s lies. Their names did the job they were assigned – So each to their own, hey, after their kind.
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 !
All the Summer, she shelters in her studio, Under the North-sent light, As she’s painting a curlew, a bird of the Winter, That, like her, flees when the Sun gets bright. She starts in April, starts from the tail-quills, Nothing but browns and creams – Slowly works forwards as evenings grow later, Until she can hear its call in her dreams.
At five-times life-size, her bird is a monster, A beautiful giant of the fens – With every barb of every feather, More real than in any photographer’s lens. So unlike the shy things they are, them and her, Avoiding the seaside crowds – They to their moorland, her to her studio, Waiting for the safety of the huddle’ing clouds.
By the late of May, she’s mottling the wing, By June, she’s glinting the eye By the height of July, she starts on the beak, As the burning Sun is stoking-up the sky. Inch-by-centimetre, longer and still longer, Polished to perfection as she goes, Longer than a godwit, longer than an avocet – This beak is magnificent, and still its black arc grows !
All through August, she’s stretching it out With the windows wide-open from dawn, Bringing-in the songs of the blackbird and the goldfinch – But the curlew cannot sing until its bill is fully-drawn. Till finally, finally, it tapers to infinity, Just as the September cools the air. She locks up her studio and heads out to the marshes, As the North-sent breezes blow the cobwebs from her hair.
These days, I let me wrists go naked, Unencumbered by the time – Shaking loose the shackles of knowing Of just how fast the seconds are going. I no more have to stress if I’ll make it, I no more have to hear it chime.
There are dozens of other clocks to choose On walls and screens and towers – So why must I also carry it round, And see that it’s hands are tightly wound ?, When we spend our lives in constant news, Surrounded by the hours.
The onions always made you cry, In ev’ry fry-up, soup, and pie – But that’s what onions do, I guess, They leave all chefs in such a mess. And so you had to drop them out From roasted duck and sauteed trout – You didn’t trust, as master cook, They way they always made you look.
Instead, you turned to garlic, And gazed beyond shallots and springs – Your eyes no longer marked by onion rings. You tossed the cloves in thick, Undaunted by my teasing quips – “Is this to stop me kissing other lips ?” Until, at once, you were gone – You said it was to breathe fresh air, To peel back the layers of life and see what’s there. And yet, you linger on – It’s been three days and a dozen beers, Yet still I taste your garlic in my tears.