‘Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it is impossible to determine the exact line of demarcation.’ Aristotle 

‘There is no clear distinction anywhere on the earth’s surface between living and non-living matter. There is merely a hierarchy of intensity going from the ‘material’ environment of the rocks and the atmosphere to the living cells…’ James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, 1988

‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’ Genesis 2, The Bible

‘…each life-cycle traces an ancestry back to inorganic chemicals in a primaeval ocean.’ Stephen Jay Gould, Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, 1990

‘My shadow/ sunning itself on this stone/ remembers the lava.’ Pre-Cambrian, RS Thomas

‘I am the daughter of Earth and Water,/ And the nursling of the Sky;/ I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;/ I change, but I cannot die.’ Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822, The Cloud

‘Long has the creation been taken as that live tongue, telling in crumbling ores and recumbent folds, in fugitive colors and the long clear combs of the sea.’ Emily Heistand, Earth’s Answer

Rising as Venus from the waves, man from the clay;

blurred, indistinct, cultured by new light and water –

his beauties are manifold, his gorgous flesh enfolds

interior beauties of mind and heart; and to his hands

come messages of prayer and comfort, strength

in the darkness of others – he may take his heart

and pin it in another man to feel his need, agony -

weep for him in the evolutionary mystery of tears.

My hand is the soil

My hand is the soil; earth informs the intricate

wing-bones, sea-bones, star-bones - translated

from space memories, water dreams; struggle

on the land through aeons of bodies, forms -

when I stretch I am the lion from yellow dust,

ferocious sun – when I swim, still silver fish.

If I garden, crumbling earth beneath my fingers,

the smell is motherly, familiar as home - seeds

being planted are dancing with light, burning

my palm - a handful of hot stars whose time

is now, among all times - explosive flowers

will come as I too was detonated from earth.


Is this why I love the Wishing Stone -

rock hole blown in pure blue; circular

geological formation, round stone legend,

charged with the fabulous synthesis here

of Pagan and Christian stories; enduring –

pass through with a mouthful of well water,

your wish will come true – seeming much

less impossible than this doorway leading

somewhere else, where the things stirring

temperate rainforest, centuries old hazels,

are no longer indistinct, and eagle voices

at last translate their unrelenting griefs –

what nature is my belief as I pass through;

not total, but of these, almost understood –

rituals of moonlit nights, salt, cats, herbs,

appeasement of trees; increasing the luck

of crops, swelling of the gold, by means

written themselves in the smear of soil –

if I pass through this next baby will come

more easily, though not yet of seed or clay

or word; still dream of these in magic space

where my daughter waits - I can almost see.

‘… our solar system must have been formed in close conjunction with a supernova event…Within our bodies, no less than three million atoms rendered unstable in that event still erupt every minute, releasing a tiny fraction of the energy started from that fierce fire of long ago.’ JE Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford University Press, 1979

We are still at the birth of our solar system;

our leaning on Sun is part of the vibration

which aesthetes might call celestial music -

or clever dullards who want to dumb down

the world’s great art, aesthetic of the Universe,

residual energy; antique light and dusty matter

which has reincarnated molecules through time -

from manufacture of the Earth’s clock, echoed

in our hearts, our allotted time; which some men

may ruin or take - when even a flower from earth

is sacred to the notion of life - petals, stamens

oscillate with the same energy, bright dancing,

which some might call electrical energy;

quarks - chaos - savage unpredictability.


We amplify this original energy,

dampened down under everyday,

with co-ordinates in time and space;

we are here today - ciphering flesh

from dreams of space, however

they are named; I call them love.

So love will fuel us, and concentrate

the mind which no-one understands;

could dare to recipe for robots, zealots,

concepts of dying for unrequited love -

and still we do not understand love -

its strange molecules and energy, not

deciphered - yet more powerful than all

forces driving the human world; residue

burning as light in light not yet apprehended,

original material un-named - still mysterious.

‘The visible spectrum is… divided up into seven primary colours…seven main colours in the one octave; but the complete range of solar radiants covers at least 30 octaves, or a total frequency range of ten thousand million to one. If we could see the whole of it, therefore, we might expect to discern more than two hundred colours as distinct from each other as orange is from yellow, or green is from blue.’ Arthur C Clarke, By Space Possessed, Gollancz, 1993

I want these colours; nothing is enough -

I have seen the peackcock, ridiculously

beautiful, one phenomenon of iridescence;

these must be more than this - spectacular

bio-phosphorence is as nothing; dull, passé,

compared to colours unimaginable, dreamt

by Sun, titillating imagination by being possible;

unseen holy grail colours - magnificently secret.

‘But how could abandoning the idea of cosmic purpose mean that we were unrelated to the other parts of the complex biosphere out of which we have arisen? That we have no kindred with whom we are naturally connected?’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name therof.’ Genesis 2, The Bible

’For ourselves we do thoroughly believe that man, as he lives just here on this tiny earth, is in essence and possibilities the most sublime existence in all the range of non-divine being – the chief love and delight of God.’ Chicago Interior (Presb)

‘On a local scale, adaptation is a means by which organisms can come to terms with unfavourable environments, but on a planetary scale the coupling between life and its environment is so tight that the tautologous notion of ‘adaption’ is squeezed from existence. The evolution of the rocks and the air and of the biota are not to be separated. Our interpretation of Darwin’s great vision is altered… It is no longer sufficient to say that ‘organisms better adapted than others are more likely to leave offspring’. It is necessary to add that the growth of an organism affects its physical and chemical environment: the evolution of the species and the evolution of the rocks, therefore, are tightly coupled as a single, indivisible process.’ James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia, 1988

Process and outcome as one; indivisible,

incremental, joined - to the point of one

mechanism - one chemistry expressed

in a million strains of music, harmony,

discord - all part of the master work;

rehearsal of some magnificent script,

illuminated book, the letters inscribed,

embellished until all possible meaning

is exhausted, run its course, spawned

like an inexhaustible rainbow salmon

leaping uphill for eggs, fish children,

with art and instinct until loch, rivers,

and sea have passed over into legend -

a blue song haunting illuminated space,

word in the darkness seeking home -

a sound of water, beginning of light.


Total symbiosis – insescapable harmony,

from which no man’s notes can be erased,

no matter what discord bends his music –

Evolution as sublime glue, binding Earth’s

everlasting population, called from soil

and water by a dream; Word beckoning

from light into necessary darkness.

The stars were fired into men - fell

from space in the hasty making

of the Universe, Solar System –

correct and possible ingredients;

potential of chemistry, energy –

the names of these elements becoming

the ruthless, symbolic poetry of space.

‘In a few cases, an animal’s body is a description of the world in the literal sense of a pictorial representation…But just as art doesn’t have to be literalist and representational, animals can be said to render their world in other ways; impressionistic, say, or symbolic.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

The animal is the twig - green leaf,

interpreted; insect-artists who have

given all - not just peace, rest, money, 

but their total physical manifestation –

crawling Monets, Cezannes, Vermeers;

the supreme artist who is the very art –

living, not just the holy middle-man.

His genes have heard, read the poem

so closely, so symbiotic

with his written space –

they are two interpretations of the same

thing; Nature’s invention scripted twice

from different forms of organic life –

what process in the owl’s brain when

he realises the body of the moth is owl

eyes – in the animal when the Preying

Mantis rises from the leaf, ignoring 

any prayer; chameleon improvises

script. In gazelles when fire and shadow

become the ravenous tiger, light and dark

are the zebra; gold dust shimmers alive -

as lion wearing the Sun around his neck.

Living description - animal, insect,

as aesthetic mirror of environment;

what amazing principle is this!

Owl eyes on a butterfly wing -

what spooky chemistry and natural art

produces such phenomenona - bizarre

reality. Your whole body given over -

to such literal adaptation, so honoured

in the scheme of things to be living

witness, physical illustration; vivid,

truthful to aeons of natural history -

reflection, celebration; active principle

of life adapting creatures to survive -

freaky at the point of strange beauty

taken to extremes, principles fully realised;

lesson, physical manifestation - radical art.

‘How sincere a pleasure is it to behold the natural beauties of the earth!… What treatment then do those philosophers deserve, who would deprive these noble and delightful scenes of all reality? How should those principles be entertained, that lead us to think all the visible beauty of the creation a false imaginary glare?’ Bishop Berkeley, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, Dialogue 2, 1713

‘Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies/ the pain and burden of an enormous sadness./ For it too feels the presence of what often/ overwhelms us: a memory, as if/ the element we keep pressing towards was once/ more intimate, more true, and our communion/ infinitely tender. Here all is distance; there it was breath. After that first home,/ the second seems ambiguous and drafty.’ The Eighth Elegy, Rainer Maria Rilke

Barriers of form are pictures

Barriers of form are pictures,

painted by life - expressed

shapes in the energy,

space canvases -

everything has haloes,

re-interpreting the energy

as light; original, immortal -

only the writing of me,

trailing chemicals,

printing matter,

keeps me from being you;

that tree, water, leaf -

white sea bird on the wing.

Only time has unwritten our feathers,

existing thinner than a ghost,

in darker spaces of potential

where possibility thickens

in sparkling gene galaxies;

that light which seems free

as can be,

carrying symbolic molecules

of love,

cousin energies;

perfect metaphor -

poor night consigned

with all its dark beauties

to Evil’s black palette,

for love is the green -

love seen, witnessed

in earth, skin, eye;

blooming from similar energy.

Nothing separates us

from our home

but a pocket of flesh,

where the same energy

powering waves,

the Weeping Willow

and the rose,

burns food,

pumps clockwork heart,

seeps human pores

like holy fumes;

leaks from our eyes -

the original light of it,

as if from dark pools

of black nothing -

as Earth glinted in the awful space -

seed planet in the closed eye of God.

‘…they are modern versions of a powerful but not specially rational vision, derived from the atomists, of the natural world as somwhow radically foreign to us and of ourselves as radically foreign to that world – a vision that is still influential in our thinking today.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

One frosted hogweed star under the Moon

The earth beneath my shy bare feet

hums and sings all this summer day;

I cannot help but dance, joyfully on grass,

as young children jiggle, jump, bounce -

yet not deafened to the world.

Earth’s song, still first music -

original notes sounded among darkness;

irresistible anti-Siren calling men to life -

never she tires of her complex harmonies

among root and bulb, colour dreams coiled

impossibly in tight black seed - explosive

as heaven was once; expressions reworked

in every flower to the last humble, smiling daisy,

prone to be guillotined as the French aristocracy.

In each green blade, reception, interpretation still

acute, never blunted by time, multitude, boredom;

every work is worth the centuries’ wait, the aeons

for this one frosted hogweed star under the Moon.

‘The history of the present will teach us the history of the past.’

JH Fabre, Fossils, 1901

‘I am not thinking in an animistic way of a planet with sentience… I often describe the planetary ecosystem, Gaia, as alive because it behaves like a living organism to the extent that temperature and chemical composition are actively kept constant in the face of perturbations…I am well aware that the term itself is metaphorical and that the earth is not alive in the same way as you or me or even a bacterium.’ Gaia, the Practical Science of Planetry Medicine, James Lovelock, 1991

‘I could recount an endless number of stories about carbon atoms that become colors or perfumes im flowers; of others which, from tiny algae to small crustaceans to fish, gradually return as carbon dioxide to the waters of the sea, in a perpetual, frightening round-dance of life and death…of others which instead attain a decorous semi-eternity in the yellowed pages of some archival document, or the canvas of a famous painter; or those to which fell the privilege of forming part of a grain of polllen…or descended to become part of the mysterious shape-messengers of the human seed, and participated in the subtle process of division, duplication, fusion from which each of us is born.’ Primo Levi, on the life of a carbon atom, The Periodic Table,  Abacus, 1986

From stars and love

There is nothing alive that is not sacred;

that did not come from stars and love -

there is no escape from vivid celebration;

energetic atoms, dancing force of space -

we are carbon art from the start of time,

now exhibiting, realised; writing faces -

what chance in the whole scheme of things,

you here, now, with me; our little offspring

expressing everything best about ourselves,

the Universe - nature of dreams and reality.

‘A rain of planktonic bacteria, fungus spores, small seeds, insects, spiders, and other small creatures falls continuously on most parts of the earth’s land surface… organisms carry other organisms with them. Most animals are miniature arks laden with parasites. They also transport accidental hitchhikers in soil clinging to the skin, including bacteria and protozoans of immense varity, fungal spores, nematode worms, tardigrades, mites, and feather lice. Seeds of some species of herbs and trees pass live through the guts of birds, to be deposited later in faeces, which serves as instant fertilizer.  A few anthropods practice what biologist call phoresy, deliberate hitch-hiking on larger animals. Pseudo scorpions, tiny replicas of true scorpions but lacking stings, use their lobster-like claws to seize the hairs of dragonflies and other large winged insects then ride these magic carpets for long distances.’ Edward O Wilson, The Diversity of Life, Penguin Books, 1993

Not one space

Not one space exists on earth or around

that is not spored, oxygentated - alive

in some stepped sense of the concept.

Not one gust - flower-breath, breeze,

that does not carry a contagion of life;

mark out Earth as the kingdom of life,

birthplace of Nature - alone among stars,

though rooted there; somehow connected

with the dark Universe from which it sprang,

however human-believed this primary origin,

this breathing into blackness -

first bright conversion of light

into seed by primitive alchemy,

of such shattering sophistication.

‘Hence, it is impossible for you to take up the most insignificant pebble at your feet, without being able to read, if you like, this curious lesson in it. You look upon it first as if it were earth only. Nay, it answers, ‘I am not earth – I am air and earth in one; part of that blue heaven which you love, and long for, is already in me; it is all my life – without it I should be nothing; I could not minister to you, nor nourish you – I should be a cruel and helpless thing; but, because there is, according to my need and place in creation, a kind of soul in me, I have become capable of good, and helpful in the circes of vitality.’ John Ruskin, Art Critic and Amateur Geologist, The Two Paths, 1859

The stone in my hand is a grey book

The stone in my hand is a grey book -

written with simplest montone words;

which will spill, elaborate, embroider

into riots of red flowers, animal, tiger.

From this bloodless heart, gold threads

will spider into autumn leaves - gases

compost siren lights of glow-worms -

illuminate the blanks of day; erasures

of night, which are illusion to human eyes -

from this dense atomic pattern, inert, inward,

cold loner, will come pumping hearts,

eyes, hands; the look of you squinting

in bright sunlight this day,

by a peacock mother-sea.

This stone will grind molecules into future kings;

its chemistries will slowly spring philosophers -

from the most unpromising roots, life,

her principles, will never stop creating;

until every grey stone is a turquoise bird,

purple flower, black plum, beating heart -

in particular, a young child playing

in white sand making starfish prints.

Now we understand (11)

why it hurts to hear the Polar Bear

emaciates on shrinking ice -

milky fur born

slowly from the soul of snow,

bleached by light of long millennia,

melting from the world

in the life of a snowflake

to the avalanche of time.

Why it excruciates to know the burning tiger

turn to embers in diminishing Indian hills -

scalding beauty

that has walked the earth

in glory -

for the Tiger is glorious;

painted by Nature

for a billion years,

dipping her brush in flames

and shadow;

extinguished now,

creating darkness -

padding black keyholes

under giant yellow moons.

And all the animals less beautiful,

not gift-wrapped in coloured fur,

with easy eyes we recognise, but

insects wearing black skeletons -

scuttling, slimy, stinging things,

still pain us as they exit - leave

before we even christened them;

because they were - existed -

sketched on life’s one template;

sparked to movement, purpose -


and now, in this spot, they are not -

and where they should have been, sterile;

because even a wound in life

summons other kinds of life -

but to take away existence, being,

breaks the artist heart of Creation.

‘Item. I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is a no go. I cannot think of it in this way. It is to big, too complex with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving though a hilly, wooded part of Southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what it it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell.’ Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell, 1976

‘For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger’ My Cat Jeoffrey, Christopher Smart, 1722-1771

‘The scientific details that now articulate this picture of the living earth give it a new kind of standing because of the special importance that science has for us today. They make us bring our official scientific beliefs together with our imaginative life…that rapprochement is surely welcome but it is not easy for us. .. We are used to hearing of a stark war between the two cultures and of a total separation between facts and values. In our universities, the arts block and the science block tend to be well separated… Much of the diffuclty about grasping the concept of Gaia is not scientific but comes from this fragmeneted general framework of our thought. It arises - for scientists as well as for the rest of us – from these artificial fences that we have raised across the scene and centrally from Descartes’ orginal fence between mind and body. Our moral, psychological and political ideas have all been armed against holism.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Sea Urchins are Part Human - Scientists who have sequenced the genome of the sea urchin say these brainless and limbless invertebrates are surprisingly similar to humans. They found that the California purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) genome has 23,300 genes. And it shares 7077 of them with humans. The genetic ties are far closer than scientists expect and make the sea urchin a closer genetic cousin of humans than the worm or fruit fly, according to the study in today's issue of the journal Science. "Nobody would've predicted that sea urchins have such a robust gene set for visual perception," says Gary Wessel, a Brown University biology professor and member of the Sea Urchin Genome Sequencing Consortium. "I've been looking at these organisms for 31 years, and now I know they were looking back at me." Among other surprises from the project were that researchers found sea urchins have the most sophisticated innate immune system of any animal studied to date. They say this may be one reason they live 100 years or more. Sea urchins also carry genes associated with human diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Huntington's. The creatures also have genes associated with taste, smell, hearing and balance, the study found.’ Agençe France-Presse, 2006

‘The most curious and incredibly delicate adaptations are the aeons by which the breeding rhythm of certain marine animals is timed to coincide with the phases of the moon and the stages of the tide. In Europe it has been well established that the spawning activites of oysters reach their peak on the spring tides, which are about two days after the full or the new moon. In the waters of northern Africa, there is a sea urchin that, on the nights when the moon is full and apparently only then, releases its reproductive cells into the sea.’ Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, Oxford University Press, 1951; Granada, 1976

Sea urchin spawning on the Full Moon

Tuning genes to ethereal rhythms;

celestial workings to the script -

poem of the sea urchin spawning

on the Full Moon, her silver eggs

a shining constellation, egg-stars,

underwater Milky Way, offering

children to the waves; where oysters

love on the spring tides - in coolness

produced by Moon-eye turning

from hot Sun gaze - or peering

from dark space peephole shyly;

debutant with only a hint of light

that will tug, in war with Earth,

for possession of the sea mirror,

to see herself more clearly -

as in the pupil of black loch,

unshattered on the surface,

smooth and young; singing

to oysters and sea urchins -

owls and men and wolves.

Silver Highland Evening Landscape

How this cooling silver moon,

light ember -

eye crying over shiverless water

to grinning black rocks,

has called me,

like a terrible love.

Before sea,

she laid her bright seed -

mercury-skinned; frozen

embryo souls

of Highland night’s heathen autumn light,

cloistered in my chill blue eyes -

with a cluster of Scotland’s tough stars

stuck in my heart like frost-burrs -

unshakeable, prickling,

for good measure.

When America’s pumpkin moons

swoll, bulged into fairytale faces,

burning Aztec sky looked red daggers

into bloody orange earth - 

sudden evening was passionate;

trees exhaling like race-horses,

sweaty flowers drooping

in feverish yellow beds,

nauseous with scent and syrup -

how she called to me,

this thin silver sliver like a closed lip,

an opening white mouth -

through all temptations of bosomy,

blousy Harvest Moons -

the swelling yolk; luscious, bulging quiver,

ripe wobble and throb, low-slung swagger -

those big gritty stars you could pince

in your fingers, crack in your teeth -

for I had won her cold love,

as northern Earth had done so long before;

and she mine -

as she wins every Scottish heart.

Centuries practising her silver arts,

though the only life she offers

is this amputee heron’s stiff black ghost,

a cold-blooded fish painted in a flash

as muscular rainbow

jumping in and out of her witch’s mirror;

water world/

air world -

even sky’s flustered blush over reluctant islands,

dies gratefully as the sugar-roses

still opening pink hearts in the garden,

now offering their frosting to starlight -

everything warm has gone away to sleep,

leaving our eyes only a silver film -

just thicker than a ghost’s skin -

spirit mixed with molecules of light;

a silver print of evening

to keep us snared.

Everything is surrendered to her spell,

numb, lovesick -

blood and colour, merely dreams;

I walk like a woken white effigy

of myself, stepped from my tomb,

unicorn light on my marble skin -

I have answered her call,

high silver horn sounding,

mesmerising wolves,

startling white owls,

inspiring wolves,

maddening stags;

dutiful, enslaved,

I am back - I have returned,

stricken with remorse

for thinking there could be any other;

pity for the haunted diaspora.

I only have eyes for her.

‘Genomics also changes our understanding of the environment. People are much more environmentally conscious now than 20-30 years ago, when the tools available for studying and understanding the environment were crude. Researchers are now beginning to use genetic markers as a way of following the interactions within a given species, and between that species and any others in its environment.’ Demystifying Genomics, Medical Research Council, UK, 2000

I hold out my burning palms

My eyelids flutter in dazzling sun -

leaves flashing blinded silver bellies.

I hold out my burning bowled palms

for cups of boiled yellow sunshine -

as leaves’ flat fingers

gather ordinary light

for chemical factories

of green embroidery,

I brew red cells in my heart,

processes the rowan knows;

photosynthesising original sea -

salt into blood and sugar, colour.

Autumn will unloose our stalks,

attaching us like seeded apples,


to Earth -

the non-organic lash, electric rope -

seen sparkling in an eye, unplugged;

leaving only the printed ghosts of us

in any children; wild, freelance DNA;

our starry hand and leaf skeletons,

composting the next generations.

‘He [James Lovelock] points out that the things which we think of as most clearly alive often have parts which are not alive, just as the earth does. Our own teeth, hair, nails and bones are largely dead, but all these things are part of us, some of them necessary parts…Polyps and termites cannot possibly be understood in abstraction from their co-evolved homes. Neither can we.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Now we understand (12)

why sky’s enormous voice reverberates

in starving winter heart or summer eye -

the single blue note

sounding a season,

simple cloud melodies,

or slate bass booming -

all variations on the orchestrated theme.

Swallows are a crescendo of black notes;

young stars strung high, mosquito

singing in night’s black mind -

thunder cymbals are crashed

by doddery old gods, hardly

able to remember their names,

but good for one more terror.

Now we understand why Moon,

gong struck on troubling water -

hauling reluctant seas

into rhythmic chorus -

is magnetising; significantly enters

the bodies of menstruating women,

amorous sea urchins, oysters -

why green flora is a harmony

played right across the world -

touching finger-flame to flame;

earth is a drum beneath my feet,

another species of heart sound.


My lungs need air breathed for me

by rainforest trees in a far country -

sent on the world’s great named winds,

Earth’s restless inner halo – invisibly - 

perfectly tailored to my spongy pink wings,

unfolded, but trapped in white bone cages

now by compromising Evolution;

recycling still, knowledges of air.

So now we understand why the life of forests

is symbiotic - needed, required for a beautiful

system, full of the grace of natural harmony -

musical interaction of carbon dioxide, oxygen;

one of the many gifts of Nature

placed on the altar of the planet.

Now we understand why the burning trees

smother us here, at the coldest extremes –

the smoke of pyres hurting our eyes,

pricking genes deep in white branch

skeleton - twig-bone, finger-leaves;

the chainsaws are cutting our shins.

Tonight, when I wasn’t looking

Tonight, when I wasn’t looking,

a star came down and touched

you in the eye - in fact,

both eyes I see, pupils.

As if planting more seeds

of that original bright dust,

shining silver light,

of Earth’s creatures;

always prospecting still, seeking

more warm homes in darkness.

Little Pink Savages

How I love my little savages -

pigging in warm summer mud,

bloated, sploshy-drop puddles;

hearts open as flowers,

like pink roses pinned

to their thin bird chests.

When you look in their eyes

there is blue sky - rainwater,

and still, that orginal light -

see how Sun chooses them -

they’re throwing water stars;

haloes shining in baby hair.

Highland War Boys

The land cannot forget them; Highland war boys,

grown strong from her earth for a million years –

remembering in skin-blue snow blinding the mountain

face, untrodden crags webbed by mist, Haversham veils;

shy seahorse fern persuaded into coaxing light and leaf,

unfurling hooks crooked in original unblemished sky -

tough green blood of scrambling bramble veins;

Medusa bushes - cat-thorned snakes, grasping -

in amber arteries bled into the glass for dancing,

under evening’s musical wand, fiddle-wizards -

in silver birch bones gleaming in coffins of scrubbed

blue air, as simple effigies, natural white memorials -

because they did not wither before death, but plucked

unripe, before hardy seed needed for this lonely place,

could not be replaced – sons, fathers - future-fathers,

all extinct in female glens. They walk in snow, white

in white; hives of flakes crazed by light,

like midgies tormenting at living heads -

as faceless angels they blaze in pristine Highland cloud;

in flickering bats, their wings strobe compasses of stars.

They are the stag standing ground, animus of pride -

even in the burning red eye of unnecessary slaughter.

Wind speaks of them still in the foreign tongue

of home - playing stone names - needle fingers

in blurring grooves; in harmony with the mothers’

umbilical pibroch surviving time - the lost tongue.

Recorded in black earth, they come murmuring

through your soles, singing red wires of blood -

exhale when soil is turned; lean on your elbows

at the fence - transfusing a heart-stabbing view.

Rain cannot forget them; each drop a swollen letter

filled with tears - transparent envelope disgorging

into constant puddles; maddened burns, force-fed,

frothing at rocky lips, drinking their own whisky -

liquid memorials endlessly replenished. Signposts

on the paths they took, almost extinct Gaelic words,

are natural poems on a wild grave; their fallen houses,

empty graves of the living. The land has commanded

sheep, wandered lambs - eagle, owl and curlew,

to remember them with voices; her lost children,

own warm molecules - the heart of her in every one,

their hearts in her; a whole rare clutch of stolen eggs.

The carless silence of them here is a thick sound;

so much unhatched, but flown - this restless sea

waiting still to bring them home; each day tries,

bringing nothing warm back to shore - leaving

starfish skeletons like dead white hands fingering

sand; brittle shell-flowers, fossil petals scattered,

broken razors of borrowed water bones - mussel

mementoes with empty mother-of-pearl stomachs,

like the island evening sky printed in a summer eye;

with eternal hope shining, Moon leaves her light on.

‘The theory goes that dirt contains bacteria, especially mycobacteria, which stimulates one part of the immune system, whereas routine vaccination stimulates a different part…Since these two parts of the immune system…normally inhibit each other, the modern, sanitised, vaccinated child is bequeathed a hyperactive TH2 system, and the TH2 system is specially designed to flush parasites from the wall of the gut with a massive release of histamine. Hence hayfever, asthma and eczema. Our immune systems are set up in such a way that they ‘expect’ to be educated by soil mycobacteria early in childhood; when they are not, the result is an unbalanced system prone to allergy.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

Sewn from stars

Sewn from stars, waiting

in darkness, we came - 

evolving waves, rising from earth,

our mouths harvesting soil, brown

oxygen; sending fingery clear shoots,

green bones, testing light-headed air -

craning our crooked necks to see

what this voice of light might be;

calling, exciting chemicals,

scripting us from ourselves.

Millions of years learning -

studying under Mother-sun,

turning white blood

into sugars, red sea;

becoming humming bee-lovers,

altruistic, nutritious gold food -

until squirming white toes loosened,

losing direct contact with the soil -

evolving our finger-leaves, single

eyes, into freelance hands and feet;

forgetting earth’s knowledge, messages,

her stacking volumes bound together -

flower and dust, our wormy education,

born from bellies of dead dirt creatures;

velvet beds of scented flower corpses,

where children once pushed fingers -

toys, scooping the taste of the world

into soil-paste, mud-pies; medicinal

spores from Earth’s wild free nursery,

fingered into sucking young mouths -

children nurtured at the dark ample breast

of planet Earth - her lumpen brown milk -

for resistance, immunity, innoculation

brewed since the start of this world -

just for this particular creature, here.

Maybe why you always want tulips,

shiny red lips kissed to pink fish-pout,

nibble fistfuls of dandelions chopped -

still roaring with sun

on singing green wire -

you and the sunflower are transfixed,

staring at each other long moments -

heavy, black, unblinking eye to small pupil,

on long hot druggy-summer days in France;

green running through your clumped fist,

face and mouth smeared wetly with earth.

‘The new scientific arguments bring back into focus the traditional, imaginative vision of a living earth…. A vision which is already returning but needs to be made much clearer.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

I hear the earth

In prickling genetic dreams,

I hear the singing earth -

no more a voice - vibrating skin harp -

than God is that old white bearded man;

but in my own brilliant, adapted head,

excruciatingly slow, evolving cells -

sparkling synapse darkness where I remember

myself as earth itself, my previous enchantment

before I was written this way, in particular,

just for now, cocooned in this time - space.

I remember my first rocks were red as hot blood,

molten, my heart – my fire and soil-skin crusting,

as the freedom of the Word called out -

one long vowel sounding across space,

like music before notes, a song before notation;

an endless poem, eternal epic, in need of letters.

I was a cradle, inching my way into existence;

mastering my chemistries, my Periodic Table,

my light and waters - until my seed, my green body,

shot at the touch of liquid, delicate negotiations with

temperamental, jealous, tempestuous Sun,

the melancholy Moon I pitied and still do.

And I was made into leaves, fabulous creatures -

always reaching for that next species, exploring

the principles of life at what seemed like leisure

by the geological calendar, but was labour and

endless creative struggle - out of myself, by

being myself, moulding myself as self-artist;

searching for the species who would one day

be like God, who would understand this love,

Creation, the way I do;

recognise the holiness.

They came faltering -

growing steadily naked

from the furred skins of animals,

shedding their angelic wings -

I am their ghost, Mother-Ghost,

the Original Organic Principle -

some still calling me Mother,

whose walking footprints yet

leave no dents, burning holes in me,

bring only enrichment of existence,

which was my endless pursuit, pleasure;

new flowers, food, medicine, children -

now, I cannot understand myself,

how I could have created them -

imperialist murderers, species guilty

of fratricide, matricide and homicide;

how can I have lost them, if they are me.

I am trembling, shaking, my bones crack;

I do not recognise the sound of my own winds,

I cannot control my tears, my lamentation seas -

my appalled open mouth is a small blue cry

among all that adult darkness; crippled stars.

‘Not everything that happens in nature can sensibly be seen as an adaptation that truly enhances survival. Nature is quirky.’ Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, Colin Tudge, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Zoo
    Gene Garden
    Earth Poems
        Mass Extinction
        Nature & Science notes
        Goddess Visions

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