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Gene Garden

The split between plants and animals occurred about 1.6 billion years ago.

“It is a fact that 75% of our genetic make-up is the same as a pumpkin.” Monise Durrani, BBC Science

“This shows that many basic processes such as the ability of an organism to repair damage to its DNA, which occurs due to environmental insult, are deeply conserved between plants and animals.” Professor Mike Bevan, European Co-ordinator, Arabidopsis Genome Initiative

"Even though both plants and animals have dealt with the issues of multi-cellular existence for over 1.5 billion years, they've dealt with that in parallel tracks. This means that comparisons between plants and animals are going to tell us a huge amount about the constraints on biology and a huge amount about evolution.” Dr Richard Gallagher, Chief Biological Sciences Editor, Nature

‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ John 15, 5, The Bible

‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees/
Is my destroyer./ And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose/ My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.// The force that drives the water through the rocks/ Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams/ Turns mine to wax./ And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins/ How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.’
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, Dylan Thomas

‘We cannot fathom the mystery of a single flower, nor is it intended that we should; but that the pursuit of science should constantly be stayed by the love of beauty, and accuracy of knowledge by tenderness of emotion.’ John Ruskin, Critic, Modern Painters, 1856

‘And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.’ Genesis 2, The Bible

‘Not only do animals and plants participate in complicated webs of interaction with one another, and with individuals of other species…each individual animal or plantis community.’ Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin Books, 1998

‘And God said. Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yeilding seed; to you it shall be for meat.’ Genesis 1, The Bible

‘How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed.’ Robert Frost, Putting in the Seed

‘The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.’ The Bible

‘I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars,/ And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren/....And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven.’ Leaves of Grass: 31, Walt Whitman

One billion, six hundred million years ago, we split

One billion, six hundred million years ago,

we split -

animals and plants 

nursing green stubs

for making leaf, wing, hand -

cradling still our shared genes.

One billion, four hundred million years,

plants dreaming of the flower -

unfurling first works;

alchemists of colour,

earth, water, light -

late in Creation’s perpetual morning.

Was their dream of flowers

shared by symbiotic bees -

did God the Gardener whisper the secrets,

slowly - like photosynthesis, chlorophyll;

whispering words told by wind, light,

because He could not wait any longer

for flowers, colour -

earth’s dreaming art.

And aeons after, we waited

for the flowering of clumsy paint 

at fingertips, hair brushes -

even then, grasping sincerely

for the transient life of flowers, 

we could not make their petals

rendered absolutely,

succumbed to paint -

though Monet saw the Water Lily’s

floating soul, showed us truthfully -

Van Gogh exorcised

hot sunflower spirits -

Sun’s burning passion for summer

expressed in boiling yellow blood,

smeared blazing on the canvas -

heavenly symbol, pigment sign

for the word of the Sunflower

in our literal, chemical world;

burdened conduit, crooked

between light and earth -

bearing the weight of her own

gorgeous metamorphosis –

being an organic picture of the Sun,

her whole head - halo of thick rays,

aping Sun’s aureole; black holes

where seeds mysteriously come. 

We kiss thin red granny lips

of pursed dowager roses - 

limp, like genetically de-muscled

fingers of royalty, totally inbred -

bury our noses in untouched breast

of white rose, her tight green heart;

closing our eyes at the warm brush

of her skin, smell of her wet sugars -

touch Tiger Lily’s opening thrush throat,

kiss lolling yellow tongues of purple iris;

knowing their fine, rarified, translucent flesh,

cool clear blood, to be more ethereal, refined,

than our fiery, extravagant, startling red brew;

our fatty, organ-armouring, insulating layers -

their heart diluted into multiple quiet cells,

where our burning, pumping, scarlet coal

is the passionate, beating sign of the animal -

but loving them, nature’s frivolity, decorations,

her pointless beauty she offers to bees, birds;

to us - not for food nor honey, but pleasure - 

her vehicles, chariots,

gift-wrapped parcels,

for her gold-dust pollens and nectars,

her lusting stamens, antlers, ovaries -

some of her highest art,

yet so easily understood.

Two hundred and fifty thousand flowering

plants adorn the blossoming green world -

each sparked from beauty’s quiet explosion,

slow perfection of natural art - just content

to stand, luring - honey-givers, ruthless sirens

culturing their seductive looks a million years;

plumping, opening, pollinating, nurturing

fantastically condensed genetic progeny

they will never see, though haunt –

in clone children colonising Earth;

as evolving aesthetic and practical fragments -

Eden’s art; beautiful inhabitants of the garden,

our gorgeous sisters who are all perfume, earth,

rain, colour – summer, sugar, bees and honey –

yet free to the man who has nothing;

who can bury any found seed - spit,

to hold in his future hand and eye,

the planet’s highest, living art –

exhibited free on the green wire,

in slow death after execution -

sacrificed for our appreciation.

By comparison, reluctant gold

and diamonds, also born in blackness,

are dragged almost lifeless, like stars,

from earth’s dark, secretive holds; yes,

shining, but static - low-volume souls

of hard molecules - without these velvets,

scents of alchemised sun, generous cycles;

powerless to buy anything that feels as good

as a plump lily, heavy sunflower in the hand.

Arabidopsis thaliana, Thale Cress 

‘The decoding of the genome of the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana is a great technical milestone in biology. Its interpretation may herald a revolution in our understanding not only of plants but of all other forms of life as well. There are about 100 genes in Arabidopsis that are closely related to human disease genes. It is estimated that there are about 250,000 flowering plants and they can be found in every ecosystem on our planet. They convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into food and useful chemicals. It is thought that flowering plants also produce at least 100,000 other substances not found in animals, many of which provide the basis for medicines. Understanding how flowering plants do this could help scientists make new drugs with which to fight disease. The split between plants and animals occurred about 1.6 billion years ago. Flowering plants evolved about 200 million years ago and mankind started to domesticate plants only 8,000 years ago. The timescale is important. It means that the 26,000 genes in the Arabidopsis genome are found almost everywhere. The emergence of flowering plants is recent in evolutionary terms, so Arabidopsis must have most of its genes in common with all other plants. The study of this convenient plant will therefore aid our understanding of all plants and indeed of the way evolution works on a molecular and genetic level. Be clear about it: all other living things on Earth, including humans, are relatives of Arabidopsis. Most of its genes have counterparts in animals. How those genes work in plants will provide a unique insight into how they work in animals…Overall the Arabidopsis genome underscores just how inter-related are all living things on Earth.’ Dr David Whitehouse, BBC News Online Science Editor

‘And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yeilding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so…And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw  that it was good.’ Genesis 1, The Bible

‘More than 40 genes coding for resistance to disease have been found in Arabidopsis.’ Medical Research Council, UK

There are about 100 genes in Arabidopsis that are closely related to human disease genes - diseases such as hereditary deafness, blindness and cancers." Professor Mike Bevan, European Co-ordinator, Arabidopsis Genome Initiative

‘It interpenetrates my granite mass,/ Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass/ Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers;… It wakes a life in the forgotten dead,/ They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest bowers.’ Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822, Prometheus Unbound

‘I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.’ Song of Solomon 2, The Bible

‘The Human Genome Sequencing Consortium estimates that our genomes contain 31,780 protein-coding genes. So  far it has spotted 22,000. This is fewer than the 25,498 genes in the genome of the tiny plant thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) and not much more than the fruitfly's 13,601 or the roundworm's 19,099 genes.’

"It seems somewhat ironic that a lowly weed has become one of the most important plants on our planet." Claire Fraser, Institute for Genomic Research, US

Thale Cress

‘The decoding of the genome of the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana is a great technical milestone in biology. Its interpretation may herald a revolution in our understanding not only of plants but of all other forms of life as well - Be clear about it: all other living things on Earth, including humans, are relatives of Arabidopsis.’ Dr David Whitehouse,  Science Editor, BBC Online Science

Humble mother-flower, green and dumbly

knowledgeable - holding through centuries,

storms; living volume in Earth’s genetic library.

Closed book silent, waiting patiently to be read -

cress vessel; original scripture, creative script -

from which so much was written; flower tongue,

heart pleasure - culture of beauty linking plants

and people, experiments in huge evolving love;

"Genome sequences change the way we do biology and from this point onwards, plant science will never be the same again because we have the full set of genes that make this small organism." Professor Mike Bevan, John Innes Centre, UK, & European Co-ordinator, Arabidopsis Genome Initiative

"Arabidopsis is now the reference plant for all others. It has all the genes that more complicated plants have for roots, seeds, flowers and fighting diseases. Now, we know what it essentially takes to make a flower." Jeff Dangl, studies plant diseases, University of North Carolina, US

her slowly explosive germ, small wisdom spreading

over welcoming Earth - colonising this green planet

for flowers; Arabidopsis thaliana’s twenty six

thousand genes nearly everywhere under sun -

the floral genetic diaspora - no time, or fruitful bending

purpose, reason in the long, complex story of the world, 

for selecting out, discarding, shedding her plastic seed,

de-writing her simple inscriptions, ancient encryptions - 

"I've been working on this little weed for over a decade. It used to take 10 man-years to find one gene. Now, one person, with this new data, can do the same thing in 18 months with a little bit of luck." Dr Ottoline Leyser, University of York, UK, & Co-ordinator, Genomic Arabidopsis Resource Network

most of her genes found in all other plants;

most of her genes with animal counterparts.

"The completion of the Arabidopsis genome sequence has profound implications for human health as well as plant biology and agriculture."  Robert Martienssen, Researcher, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, US

Now her genome revealed, showing a hundred genes

closely related to similar genes for human disease -

deafness, blindness, cancer - arabidopsis is the root

of our green blood family, our gene cradle, nursery;

without ears, eyes, breast, fantastically fridging

our cousin genes so safely, in cool, walled cells -

our living medicine cabinet, small green doctor,

untrained, waiting to be touched at genetic hem;

hoping to cure us all with her working cocktails

of light, earth, air - stocked, developed, waiting;

"All nations and peoples will benefit from the Arabidopsis sequence. These findings are freely accessible to researchers worldwide for the benefit of improving the nutrition, the general health and the sustainability of the population and the environment." Dr Rita Colwell,  Director, US National Science Foundation

helping us, even when we were the ones

who got to speak, beat, walk, think, love.

"This landmark achievement means that every lab around the world working with Arabidopsis, as well as any other flowering plant, will be doing their science faster, easier and in a more thorough way."  Daphne Preuss, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Chicago, US

"It's amazing that humans and plants share a number of genes. It provides further evidence that we do have a common origin. Having the whole genome of this plant opens so many questions about evolution. How related are we?"  Rod Wing, sequencing the rice genome at Clemson University, US

‘The furious power,/ To soft growth twice constrain’d in leaf and flower,/ Protests, and longs to flash its faint self far/ Beyond the dimmest star.’ Legem Tuam Dilexi, Coventry Patmore 1823-96

But who says a flower does not love itself? -

is not drunk on its own beauty, cupped nectar;

or sharing our genes, looking with Cyclops eye,

does not know our looking, touch, breath - love.

"It'll grow in your garden - you should be able to find it nearby - even in a big city. You can actually grow it in very little soil - just a thimble full. But it has to be said, it's not a very good weed. It's not persistent like dandelion which is difficult to remove." Dr Sean May, Head, Arabidopsis Stock Centre, Nottingham University, UK

Small Flower Mother - I touch

your frail green body, invisible

genes dreaming more creatures;

that dreamt of these flexible white fingers,

understanding of light in everything alive,

on Earth with different sorts of breathing;

culturing your range of human medicines

like art - embroidering on old principles

of creativity - biological work of mixed,

conducted chemicals - a comprehensive

agriculture that encompasses the walking,

blundering ignoramuses of photosynthesis,

who will tread earth like blind rhinoceroses,

lumbering, so loud - crush you as daisy eyes

are casually put out, beheaded dandelions die

on the cut verge like small crashed suns,

coming ghosts of seed corrupted - script

scored out - a misty flotilla rising white;

plunder earth for the wrong materials,

when you are sleeping with the truth

of healing written in your green genes;

corollary, haven, burned back-up disk -

until it seems the cure for all human ill

already lives with us upon our planet -

in wet jungles, the last wild places, now

temples of Nature, reservations of being,

if we stopped to search, did not destroy.

Eden was not a garden like Kensington

in the middle of London, hung in space,

but Earth - everything needed, provided

for mankind by the symbiotic planet;

one system, one glorious root, dream

lasting four billion years – and Eden

is still here, but always we are being expelled

for our sin - dereliction, selfish destruction of

original, living beauty, designed for continuity.

‘These mechanisms which are associated with maintaining genome stability allow Arabidopsis to grow in varying climatic conditions. Learning just how they work will assist plant scientists in making economic crops more hardy. Analysis of the gene sequence suggests that so-called signalling pathways that respond to bacteria and parasites may be more abundant in plants than in other animals. Professor Richard Wilson, of the Washington University School of Medicine, said: "Just as animals have immune systems, plants have ways of protecting themselves too. As scientists begin to understand the genes that code for protective proteins, they may be able to make plants more resistant not only to diseases but to insects, wind and drought." Many of the Arabidopsis genes are responsible for the upkeep of the strong cell wall, something that animals lack. Their particular functions are crucial to the fundamental difference between animals and plants.’ Dr David Whitehouse,  Science Editor, BBC Online Science

‘How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew! Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Mendel was able to formulate his laws of heredity because he studied traits that bred true. Since then, concepts of genetic inheritance have been gradually stretched to make room for things such as transposons and imprinted traits. But the Arabidopsis hothead mutant has the potential to push the laws of Mendelian inheritance to the breaking point. That is because it has the amazing ability to revert, at relatively high frequency, back to an ancestral state.’ Mutant of the Month, Nature, 2006

For you I will keep the long memory,

never will I lower life’s flag, forget -

in my heart always you will remain;

I shall express my love - reverence,

intruding you into the present, living

through me; as all your deaths matter.

"Selection of traits that improve our diet and make harvesting easier have changed the pea-sized wild tomato into the modern giant, and the bone-hard teosinte seeds into the large, soft modern maize. Studies of Arabidopsis will help to determine the genetic basis for these changes.” Virginia Walbot, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, US

‘And the Spring arose on the garden fair,/ Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;/ And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast/ Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest…’ The sensitive plant, Percy Bysshe Shelley,1820

‘The higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana  (Arabidopsis) is an important model for identifying plant genes and determining their function…Here we report one of the first milestones of this project, the sequence of chromosome 4. Analysis of 17.38 megabases of unique sequence, representing about 17% of the genome, reveals 3,744 protein coding genes, 81 transfer RNAs and numerous repeat elements. Heterochromatic regions surrounding the putative centromere, which has not yet been completely sequenced, are characterized by an increased frequency of a variety of repeats, new repeats, reduced recombination, lowered gene density and lowered gene expression. Roughly 60% of the predicted protein-coding genes have been functionally characterized on the basis of their homology to known genes. Many genes encode predicted proteins that are homologous to human and Caenorhabditis elegans proteins.’ Sequence and analysis of chromosome 4 of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, Nature magazine

Needing Sun

How the flower is still in me -

this distress of summer gloom,

head straining always for Sun,

drinks of light, in unreturned water-lust;

such unrequited love of burning August,

her gold corn cauldrons, blowsy lushness.

Do we not have the same bright tears

in our eyes, though we learned our tear

factory from sky machinery - creating

water because we are in God’s image -

flowers wear silver sky tears in their eyes

as we wear flowers growing in our hair -

like us, God’s living art,

realisation of Evolution,

set in master landscapes.

My sisters’ eyes have surely let us in too far -

they have become holes, open, with no plastic

glass, reflective barrier to the dark heart tunnel; 

simpler souls without protection -

multi-millennial culture of beauty

fusing eye and mouth as one organ.

And now I, too, in the midday sun

beating my head, filling my face -

becoming confused, disorientated;

my iris eye-flower leaking silver dew,

my rose-pursed mouth and dark throat

exuding nectral saliva, now glistening

on my kissing lips, tasting my own sweet

flavours, clear sugars - emanating earthy

perfumes, dreaming of seed, bees, blooms;

fresh gold pollen drifting from my nose

at each warm breath, suspending a halo,

sparkling cloud of fertile hope - signals.

To achieve such thrilling floral purity,

their sex has shed all modest flesh -

more naked than Eve, honest organs

luring fat Lothario bees; panting,

dripping sugar lubricant to ease

pleasureable progress into seed.

We put on our petals, fancy-coloured flutter-frocks,

to be as flowers, lipsticked as candy-pink Campion;

and imitate that head tilting, coquettish - yet childish

as daisies; vampish as dark red roses.

We marry as lilies; dance as if wind

possessed us too - annoint ourselves

in their perfumes, for we miss it in our skin

and peppermint breath - only our children -

temporarily, carrying the ghost of that scent;

fresh soul-smell - of purity - in the vulnerable

tenderness of baby neck, sparrow chest, sunny

head; transferred to pot pourri nose and fingers.

And was it thistles that became men -

(maybe Scots - hiding delicate purple

flowers, crowns, in a fist of spikes) -

or perhaps the poppy’s bristled bulb -

her thick-leg hairy stem, bullet-wound

head; her seductive, addictive poisons.

Or weeds, economy-class flowers,

parsimonious with beauty - tough,

tenacious; spreading, grasping earth,

warring - strangling more delicate flora -

to conquer every last centimetre without

compromise or compassionate reflection.

If my family had become pure flower -

not gone the animal way; my green skin

would be fading - chartreuse, like leaves

dying in a vase; the nun lilies would come

around me, nurses, ghosts - my hair would

be falling, strand by silent strand; backbone

weakening, bending - desperate for calciums

of light - without any sun for yet another day

this pathetic wilting is worsening - already so

weary, I want to lie down - losing the bendy

wind-muscle in my long green spine; I swear

my hard seeds ache - untouched in dark flesh;

as wet seeds hurt to burst under black spring

earth. The vivid eye of my head is closing -

with summer not yet nested in nursery cells.

I remember in my red sap - long pink stems,

petal skin, foot roots, iris eyes, hand leaves,

that conversion of light, earth, rain; my love

of sun – simply being a gorgeous daughter

of light, full of seed, promise of blooming;

how it feels to open on a gold summer day.

‘Flowering plants in general reproduce by seeds which for the most part are the products of sex, but most are also able to reproduce themselves by some variation on a theme of budding – by suckers, stolons, rhizomes, tubers, or what you will. Reproduction by such conceptually straightforward means is said to be ‘asexual’ – meaning ‘without sex’. Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘Gazing on thee I feel, I know/ Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,/ And living shapes upon my bosom move… Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:/ Tis love, all love!’ Prometheus Unbound, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822

‘A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits…A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams…Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come unto his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.’ Song of Solomon, The Bible

‘Those individual flowers which had the largest glands or nectarines, and which excreted most nectar, would be oftenest visited by insects and would oftenest crossed; and so in the long-run would gain the upper hand. Those flowers, also , which had their stamens and pistils placed, in relation to the size and habits of the insects which visited them, so as to favour in any degree the transport of their pollen from flower to flower, would likewise be favoured or selected.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘…they belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies...they stature is like to a palm tree, and they breasts to clusters of grapes.’ Song of Solomon 7, The Bible

‘When the females arrive at their maturity, they rise above their petals, as if looking abroad for their distant husbands.’ Erasmus Darwin, The Loves of the Plants, 1789

Women Flowers

Elizabethan skin, the lily -

poreless, white, sweatless;

plump pouting mouths

opening virginal lips -

languorous milk throat

swanning her coy neck.

Poised silver tears glisten,

set by a jeweller; Faberge.

Air-soluble sugars

hooking molecules,

her addictive perfume,

sirening bees, moths -

she is all lush, creamy eye,

beckoning snowy throat -

but dressed in a demure veil,

nunly hood of contradiction;

hung praying on her emaciated

model body, uptight green spine.

Some women maintain the lily,

druggy bride of earth and sun -

pure nun and dazzling harlot -

white hot virgin of the field.

Frilly daffodils still fuss

in giggly blondes’ faces;

thistle-prickle printing

limbs of bristly men -

Deadly Nightshade blooding,

beating in some black hearts.

I remember that clammy hand-

shake of a pale man whose heart

was hard - unopened as seed

fallen onto infertile concrete;

like the touch of a dark summer leaf

grown in shadow on my warm palm,

his fingers white and chill as tubers,

and in his black eyes - no twinkling.

Mothers understand

the stem and flower -

lips, belly, stamen, pod;

imperative seed and egg.

Holding the male and female

in one body, one capability -

how the overarching love of seed

is worth even the hallmark beauty

of the flower - life of the flower;

and the grace of such love given.

‘A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall all lie all night betwixt my breasts. My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi, Behold thou art fair, my love; thou hast doves’ eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green. The beams of our hose are cedar and our rafter of fir.’ Song of Solomon 1, The Bible

‘With fierce distracted eye IMPATIENS 3. stands,/ Swells her pale cheeks, and brandishes her hands/ With rage and hate the astonish’d groves alarms,/ And hurls her infants from her frantic arms…” 3. Touch me not. The seed vessel consists of one cell with five divisions, each of these, when the seed is ripe, on being touched, suddenly folds itself into a spiral form, leaps from the stalk, and disperses the seeds to a great distance by its elasticity. [Darwin’s note]’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Botanic Garden, Part 11, The Loves of the Plants

‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’ Matthew 6, New Testament, The Bible

The Lily Wears her Soul for Skin

The lily wears her soul for skin,

accomplishing this art of death

on Earth, from earth – her root-

plugged, green-flex flowers light,

conducting earth’s chameleon soul

from dark ovaries of charged soil.                                 

She has shed the rest;

colour, gut, blood -

is just soul and sex,

sex and white throat -

heart, mouth, eye,

all one - opening

from her broken spine.

Already she is expiring,

the sugar-breath of cut lily,

is the reluctant unswitching

of the pure white flower,

slipping, already clothed,

straight into Heaven -

failing lily incarnation

cupping the means of life

in her splayed petal bowl,

translucent as the thin bright

shade of a good person’s skin.

One luminous night - visited

by the numbing eyes of Moon,

she is struck, turned silver -

dumb with death and beauty;

before the morning, loosens

her petals on rusted hinges -

sheds them like falling autumn

wings - but rising by noon as a

bright white hallucinatory bird,

over her tall flock of hot sisters

dropping pollen at her green toe;

rising from the temporary water

vessel in a dazzling migration -

printing the eye like a sunbeam,

returning to seed invisibility;

leaving the smell of an angel.

Earth speaks to my winter feet

Earth speaks to my numb winter feet,

like ears gathering an invisible sound;

slowly my bones, toes, pale skin, thaw,

warm - now wriggling, want to sprout,

spread - dreaming of dancing, flowers,

regenerated blue; soil, water, cut grass

under bare feet - that running sparked

by nothing but joy in hallmark season.

Earth singing lush summer songs now

to my green spring feet, electric soles,

until red blood is cured of snow spores,

gnawing frost, by a welcome rehearsal.

Snowdrops came like a prayer

Snowdrops came like a prayer;

a white, holy multitude

in first communion with blank sky,

ruthless winter air -

seasonal pilgrims,

Puritans in frosted collars,

ice lace,

shivering on emaciated green wires

the skeletal North wind grabbed,

tugged, shook violently -

but they were secret ballerinas,

delicate but so sinewy strong -

surviving a billion winters

to spin plant tissue from snow

as the Polar bear, just as patiently,

has spun his metamorphosed fur.

The annual lighting of their bulbs -

ritual under this high temple of trees,

is their religion – to be harbingers,

lights in the darkness, burning white,

pure as the twitching hare - cultivating

symbolism as gene; flowers infiltrating

Earth while Ceres searched for her daughter -

before and after interpretation as winter prayer.

‘I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener.’ John 15, 1, The Bible

‘The Green Children - In the heart of rural Suffolk in a village said to be named after 'a pit for trapping wolves' is a strange green tale.  Now this is not green in the sense of immature but in the fact that it is about two green people or to be more precise two green children. This is another account documented by Abbot Ralph of Coggleshall who also documented the tale of the  HYPERLINK "ml_orfordmerman.htm" Wild Man or Merman of Orford, he along with another 13th century cleric place this occurrence when King Stephen was on the throne 1135-1154.  The season was summer and the farm workers were out in the fields four or five miles from the monastery of St. Edmund bringing in the harvest when they saw two children a boy and a girl emerge from a "Wolfpitte" (old english for pits for wolves). What made this a strange occurence was that the two children had completely pea green skin. They also wore strange clothing and were unable to understand anything that the villagers said, though they could converse with each other. The farm workers took the boy and the girl back to the village of Wulpet and to the local landowner a knight called Sir Richard de Calne.
They were offered victuals but refused to eat, until they were presented with some green beans which they consumed hungrily. As time went by the young boy sickened and died but the girl  who was slightly older thrived and eventually lost her green hue.  She also learnt English and was able to answer the question where had she and her brother come from? She told of a land which she called St. Martin's land where the sun never shone and it was permanently twilight and all of the people were the same shade of green as she and her brother. She said that they could see a bright country, which could be seen from their land, but that it was divided by a very broad river. One day she and her brother were tending her father sheep when they heard the sound of bells (the bells of St. Edmunds).  Following the sound they entered an underground tunnel and emerging from it found themselves in a land full of light, which bedazzled them.  It was then that the farm workers found them. The girl remained in the employment of Sir Richard de Calne and one of the clerics reported that her morals were loose, but that she eventually went on to marry a man from Lynne (King Lynn). It is possible that the children were feral children who had become lost or even abandoned.  Around that time there had  been a large influx of Flemish people whose language and dress would have appeared foreign to the villagers. Perhaps the children had sought refuge in the woods around Woolpit and lived in the underground tunnels of that area. Another suggestions is that the children may have been suffering from a 'green sickness' the name that was given to anemia a dietary deficiency.  Which would also explain why the girl eventually lost her green colour when she was put on a proper diet.’

‘The bibilical account had also been under persistent pressure, particularly since Linnaeus set out a scientific taxonomy of the relations between extant plant and animal kinds.’ Gillian Beer, Introduction, Charles Darwin Origin of Species 1859, Oxford University Press, 1998

This genetically-inspired spring

This genetically-inspired spring -

my listening wet fingers sprouted

green leaves under a teaching tree -

over the dense citizenhood of grass,

my hair softly bristled, smelling fresh.

I was so aware of remembering, being

the chemistry of green, connected

to sunlight, earth, oxygen, seasons;

feeling ground beneath my newly-webbed feet

put me in mind of my previous life in water - 

my slipping silver skin, slowly peeled, dried,

for walking on land, Earth’s dark, living face.

As human pod, evolving genetic receptacle,

when I smiled I remembered being a flower,

opening, as my expression then, of being me -

seeds buried deep in my fantastically changed

body, my scrapbook soul. I was autumn once,

as all of us are seasons - like bulging autumn,

I am swollen with the stored genetics of life,

am a burning key to Earth’s possum death -

laying down life like a bottled wine - distillation

of DNA, in preserving cellars of winter darkness,

to be opened by the hands of spring,

drunk by the mouth of summer; now

transformed, but indelibly imprinted -

all those endless rehearsals, tenacious

through light and dark, flickering millennia;

passionate play of four billion united years,

until under this tree, my eyes the colour

of sky, looking like flowers under glass;

my red blood the transmuted sea, heated

by a beating muscle that was once a rose;

so I respond to light - the call of spring

is heard by me too - my bank of selves,

from first amoeba to passionate mother;

culling my tangled toes to dance - here.

‘Our atom of carbon enters the leaf...It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light: in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen… and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life.  All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis; dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise, we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we  will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world. Primo Levi, on his “first literary dream” on the life of a carbon atom, which came to him in Auschwitz , The Periodic Table, trans, Abacus, 1986

‘All these forms are extinct, yet they were so near to what has become familiar that I doubt whether the ordinary, unobservant passerby would notice them if they could spring up again in hedgerow or wood…It is sombre in the swamp and there are nowhere any flowers. Yet there is scent in the air. Here already is the rich aromatic breath of resins, a presage of the smell of pinewoods on summer days when pine cones crack in the sun…Ferns feather the mud-banks and there are thickets of horsetails with the radiate whorls and neatly socketed stems of their diminished and weedy descendents.’ Jacquetta Hawkes, A Land, Cresset Press, 1951

Touch them here, in the fossilised gloom

Touch them here, in the fossilised gloom -

verdant odour of primaeval time; memory

sprouting what it has learned over and over,

never tires of hearing on earth - green music

translated from space, alien languages of light,

star-words; all will be assimilated, synthesised

by some mysterious principle, some staying here,

littering the field of being, thriving in the history

of themselves, when their brethren moved on, up,

but lost contentment of being deeply green - here.

‘One of our workers accidentally trod some sawdust on Saturday morning into the lab where the technology was developed, and by the end of the weekend we had the full genome to the giant sequoia.’ T. rex International Paleontonomics Experiment

‘Yellow, yellow flower, and/  flower of industry,/  tough spikey ugly flower,/ flower nonetheless,/  with the form of the great yellow/ Rose in your brain!/ This is the flower of the World.’ Allen Ginsberg, In back of the real

‘When, as a very small child, I was playing with a horsetail that had been growing as a weed… I remember how my father told me it was one of the oldest plants on earth, and I experienced a curious confusion of time. I was holding the oldest plant in my hand, and so I, too, was old.’ Jacquetta Hawkes, A Land, Cresset Press 1951

Touch this living history; not record or genome

deciphered - not book or film, docudrama, play;

but the real thing, on Earth, still with you today,

holding out green limbs, the simple life - peace.

Dream how these molecules could reach the eye

from stars turned green - crossing any divisions

of form, purpose; life’s direction which is all ways,

all at once, forever - to the last green cell, sunbeam.

‘The genes of all creatures are made of DNA and in eukaryotic creatures like us, and plants and fungi, the DNA is neatly packaged into a series of huge ‘macromolecules’ known as chromosomes.’ The Facts of Life Revisited, Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth.’ Dorothy FB Gurney, (on my Aunty Sheila’s tea-towel, always on wall throughout childhood, Perth, Scotland)

‘Every two hundred years, every atom of carbon that is not congealed in materials by now stable (such as, precisely, limestone, or coal, or diamond, or certain plastics) enters and reenters the cycle of life,  through the narrow door of photosynthesis…Photosynthesis is not only the sole path by which carbon becomes living matter, but also the sole path by which the sun’s energy becomes chemically usable.’ Primo Levi, on the life of a carbon atom, The Periodic Table, Abacus, 1986

Big pink happy petal face

The privilege of life - incalculable fortune

of being here, loving my child – the fittest

to have come here, without stopping along

the way as some marvellous reptile, animal,

bird or plant, whose experiments and death

made us possible; such extraordinary odds.

In this sunshine, he still springs - gambols

like the lamb he was, can remember better

than I - feeling more I am as old as the hills,

spread my limbs like a starfish on the beach,

resting in the sun, glowing, content; opening

my big pink happy petal face to perfect blue.

Remembering Ourselves as Leaves

Lying, eyes sealed

like pink skin buds,

sight as a black seed

under incubating lid;

but already sensing light,

dreaming the answering

flower coded in my heart,

in unconscious chemistry.

Dumbed by sun, without thought,

only knowing blue sky is above -

rooted earth, veined with rain,

crumbling nutritional energy,

below - opening my warmed

surfaces to more coaxing light;

producing more intense red blood

as easily as green skin, clear sap -

my hair stirred by objective wind,

palms spread over five star bones.

This is the closest to remembering

ourselves as leaves, the living salad

in our mouths - waiting for flowers

in our hair, blossoming our mouths;

still ending the same, as burning skeletons,

our dead palms stripped of veiling flesh –

to the communal star, returning to earth -

our bone wings folded in a Scottish cross.

Now we understand (6)

why the tumbling blue faint

of summer-swooned flowers

over the moss-touped wall -

limp loll of those thin necks

anchoring luminous sky-scraps,

flapping mildly in stifling air -

are womanly; aristocratic 1920s

women with elegant long fingers

touched to the jaw or cheek -

and the hot, feverish, scarlet

roses require gold smelling salts

as they wait on high season bees,

as be-all or end all, lover or tough

spinster entering tenacious winter;

jittering in wind like Victorian girls,

neurotic with unfulfillment, warped

goals, male stricture - longing to be

something more beyond future roses,

tethered languorously on green chains,

a chaises longue of imprisoning earth.

Now we understand

why they have eyes;

why they are looking so bluely

at me drinking blood-red wine

in the ruby light of a fiery dying evening,

such rich light syrup on my eyes’ tongue,

a rapt blue audience murmuring sweetly

in shifting air, restless for the sugary-sick

honeysuckle drug of summer, fuggy

harbinger of cool dusk, human water; 

commenting how flickering fast I am -

my heart to them is like that of a mouse,

fluttering; my silk frock is crude petals -

how coarse my strawberry-dimpled skin

compared to this fine poreless stuff; such

economical beauty of heart and eye, one.

They are reviving now -

perking Scandanavian heads,

despite the opiate honeysuckle

secretly injecting evening air -

infiltrating the world’s warm lungs

breathing out the long summer day;

de-charging, soporific, verge-

of-wellbeing tipped to languor,

turpitude; not peaceful, but stoned.

But Sun has stopped beating blue

heads into purple haloes - sweating

perfume auras, hallucinogenic eyes;

clear arterial blood cools, purple veins

losing heat in rustling, restless simmer.

They are gossiping now in evening’s

first cool breeze - head to close blue

head, whispering lips, rubbing skin; I’m

listening, intent - my sisters - old sisters.

‘…to paint the lily,/ To throw a perfume on the violet,/…Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.’ Shakespeare

‘The antiquity of these rock-pools, and the infinite succession of the soft and radiant forms, sea-anenomes, sea-weeds, shells, fishes, which had inhabited them, undisturbed since the creation of the world, used to occupy my father’s fancy… if the Garden of Eden had been situated in Devonshire, Adam and Eve, stepping lightly down to bathe in the rainbow-coloured spray, would have seen the identical sights that we now saw...anthea waving in the twilight its thick white waxen tentacles, and the fronds of the dulse faintly streaming on the water, like huge red banners in some reverted atmosphere.’ Edmund Gosse, Father and Son, Heinemann, 1907

‘It is familiar to almost everyone, that in a flower the relative position of the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils, as well as their intimate structure, are intelligible on the view that they consist of metamorphosed leaves arranged in a spire.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859


‘But not alone for pleasure’s sake,/ We search the thicket, copse, and brake,/ Or rove from clime to clime;/ Nor yet for the abundant store/ Of plants, that fragrant balsams pour,/ Whether they deck the valley’s o’er,/ Or mountain’s brow sublime.//’Tis that with scientific eye/ We explore the vast variety,/ To find the hidden charm:/ ’Tis to allay the fever’s rage,/ The pang arthritic to assuage,/ To aid the visual nerve of age,/ And fell disease disarm…’ Sarah Hoare, 1777-1856, Poems on Conchology and Botany

‘Biologists of all kinds make use of many hundreds of different kinds of complex chemical agents produced by living things, for all kinds of purposes.  Antibiotics, mostly produced by fungi, are an obvious example…Typically, when plants are wounded, they close the wound by generating ‘callus’ cells - which are relatively undifferentiated, and retain and recover some totipotency. It is from callus cells that new specialist tissue arises – stem or root, whatever is lacking.’ Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, Colin Tudge, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘And DIGITALUS wisely given,/ Another proof of favouring Heaven/ Will happily display,/ The rapid pulse it can abate,/ The hectic flush can moderate,/ And blest by him, whose will is fate,/ May give a happier day.’ Sarah Hoare, 1777-1856, Poems on Conchology and Botany

‘Why is biodiversity important? Taking a long-term view, environmentalists argue that if people don't start looking after the planet, it will no longer be able to sustain life. Most people agree that it is important to protect every form of life for its own sake. In addition there are two pressing if selfish reasons why preserving biodiversity is important for the human race. Food - Rural communities in more than 60 countries get much of their protein from wild animal meat. Overpopulation, famine and the spread of high-powered rifles are killing off this source of food and people are going hungry. In the Congo basin, conflict has forced people to sell wild meat, putting pressure on animals such as large antelopes, gorillas and chimpanzees. This bushmeat trade is growing so fast it will soon be unsustainable. Science -Fewer species will mean fewer potential medicines. Three-quarters of the top 150 prescription drugs in the US are lab versions of chemicals found in plants, fungi, bacteria and vertebrates. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 60% of the world's population relies on plants for primary healthcare. There are 3,000 plant species used in birth control alone. Biologists argue that, because we do not know yet precisely which genes or characters will be of value in the future, they must all be preserved and treated as having equal value.’ BBC, 2006

And more than beauty in Nature’s cultured brain

And more than beauty in Nature’s cultured brain,

secreting medicine from cooling, incubated cells;

curing lily’s nurse-white hood still sheltering

her rooted knowledge, only half-discovered -

rotted down, composted, re-discovered;

old wives and witches, aromatherapists,

herbalists, morphing into scientists, apothecaries,

chemists, pharmacists, practitioners and doctors -

this glorious floral aesthetic,

more than just pretty faces -

stocking a thousand beneficial substances,

to help old family, now with toes uprooted;

starry leaves playing violins, pianos,

writing poetry, performing surgery -

just eight thousand years of cultivation,

still a wonder, new to the old world -

blooms translating our language of love;

practical adornment, medical art, organic

weld of beauty and medicine - synthesis

of earth and light, decorative green wire; 

O, what chance and magic

could invent the flower?

‘E’en round the pole the flames of Love aspire,/ And icy bosoms feel the secret fire! - / Cradled in snow and fann’d by arctic air/ Shines, gentle BAROMETZ!1 thy golden hair;/ Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends,/ And round and round her flexile neck she bends;/ Crops the gray coral moss, and hoary thyme,/ Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime./ Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,/ Or seems to bleat, a Vegetable Lamb… 1. Polypodium Barometz. Tartarian Lamb. Clandestine Marriage. This species of fern is a native of China, with a decumbent root, thick, and everywhere covered with the most soft and dense wool, intensely yellow.This curious stem is sometimes pushed out of the ground in its horizontal situation by some of the inferiorio branches of the root, so as to give it some resemblance to a Lamb standing on four legs…Sir Hans Sloane describes it under the name of Tartarian Lamb, and has given a print of it… but thinks some art had been used to give it an animal appearance. Dr Hunter, in his edition of the Terra of Evelyn, has given a more curious print of it, much resembling a sheep. The down is used in India externally for stopping hemorrhages, and is called golden moss. [Darwin’s note]’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Botanic Garden, Part 11, The Loves of the Plants

‘It was a case of finding out how the roots and branches of these trees in the gray matter terminate, in that forest so dense that, by a refinement of complexity, there are no spaces in it, so that the trunks, branches, and leaves touch everywhere…’ Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Scientist, on the organisation of the brain, Recollections of my Life, trans, American Philosophical Society, 1937

The Rose in my Hand

The rose in my hand

is a red poem -

because cut,

she cries a single silver tear,

but surrenders to incremental death

in my palm, still

offering her gorgeous petal words,

cultured colours -

even breathes on me perfumes

meant to lure bees that will no longer come.

Her albino eye deepens to black -

when she relaxes beyond the power

of muscular hinges to close once more,

looks back at last -

the gold ring will be there -

married to earth as all flowers.

I touch the live end of her wire,

dripping clear conductive blood -

genetic flash – my cool toes in mud,

understanding light, the chemistries

of red and green,

dusty gold pollen -

feeling seasons with the whole body,

gentle floral interpretation of mind -

making this art; head and heart blooming,

crimson halo marking creation of beauty.

Robert Burns’s Rose

Burns saw his heart in the red,

red rose, cupping June light -

his rooted love sprung visible -

like the heart of Catholic Christ;

from the earth chest of him,

opening on aching hinges -

before knowing science

would now call cousin

man and flower;

flower and man -

the word of the rose

and red, red heart.

Now we understand (7)

why the opening of a flower

is a slow eye looking at sun,

speaking to us somehow

the way human eyes do -

without luxury of language,

exchanged for such beauty;

the sugary love of honey bees -

green alchemists telling of earth,

black pupil-hearts

understanding light,

where light is like blood.

Why lush, blushing lilies -

stinking, smoking sweet as incense,

loll dripping tongues shamelessly -

like many splayed legs, open

spread petals, promising such

plumpness of coy breast buds;

her glistening drools, dazzling

white smile, drugging of a room’s

molecules with beneficial sugars,

makes us humans swoony, bamboozled;

acknowledging her princessly presence -

until evening when she is all mysterious,

calm, luminous, still haunting our home,

even room to room, the voice of her perfume,

her calling song of gold pollen, more lilies -

dreaming a heavenly convent by a blue pool;

the Lily is utterly romantic - floral aesthete.

Why the rose became a heart

Now we understand, perhaps,

why the rose became a heart -

still printed with the flower,

whose mouth cups sun, but

also snow; goes on smouldering

in the melancholy white garden

like a cold red coal -

an ember of summer.

Now we understand (8)

why we hear Spring,

fizzing in the blood

like pinball lambs -

drooling green buds,

insane black spark-birds

exploding up to Heaven.

Why fern necks, slowly,

elegantly uncurling, are

like arthritic ballerinas,

crooking our sunflower-

heavy heads to renovated blue –

shepherds of something so green

in the DNA - shared genetic script,

it can never be erased by Evolution.

‘With all its eyes  the natural world looks out/ into the Open. Only our eyes are turned/ backward, and surround plant, animal, child/ like traps, as they emerge into their freedom./ We know what is really out there only from/ the animal’s gaze…Never, not for a single day, do we have/ before us that pure space into which flowers/ endlessly open.’ The Eighth Elegy, Rainer Maria Rilke

Now we understand (9)

why the flower heart

is an eye speaking to

us the way a dog eye does,

affectingly open, wordless;

the opening of a new leaf

is a green hand starring -

plants hold out uplifted arms,

to embrace everything around

in a quiet hallelujah

to blue and sunlight.

Why the human eye slips

to the heart-eye of a flower

with open adoration,

love, even, fruiting -

for this lack of guile or artifice;

such a simple honesty of gaze.

‘Plant tissue can now be grown in a dish…DNA is added…and a whole new plant is regenerated from the cells that have taken up the added gene most effectively.’ Ian Wilmut, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

Now we understand (10)

why the hot cry of Sun to seed,

is heard still by all her creatures;

why my heart is a red flower

now beating inside my chest,

opening to motherly warmth

where everything is better -

my closed eyes two tight buds,

and sight, a blind seed nursed

by light, waiting patiently,

explosively, in darkness -

why my naked feet nudge earth,

creeping white toes part crumbs,

guddling mud for grip,

pleasuring in cool ooze;

my spindling fingers crawl,

reached out on long limbs -

to slowly star, infiltrate

this decaying stone wall.

‘High-quality colour vision with a three-colour system may have evolved in our primate ancestors as an aid to finding fruits in the open forest. It has even been suggested, by the Cambridge psychologist John Mullen, that the three-colour system is a device invented by certain fruiting trees in order to propagate themselves.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

Organic Purpose of Fruit

Even fruit propelling propogation -

organic purpose that is like thinking

without the brain; colour chemistries

understood, invented systems

cultured in a seed - rehearsed

as any music for beginners -

life driving relentless principles,

but art, not savage reproduction;

not red, but golden, each trophy,

treasure made by Evolution -

each seed in the heart of fruit

magnificent - creation of Sun

and Earth; coded culmination

of life and death – every seed

miraculous to each last atom -

unconscious plasticity of molecules;

making not stumps - seed factories,

but flowers, fruit - inventing colour

for our eyes; the gorgeous weight

of a purple plum - plump, heavy

in the hand, bleeding out crimson

at unplugged arterial stalk;

how like a heart, pumping

Sun chemicals into flesh -

sweet blood. Squeezed lush

into my mouth, it uses me -

my symbiotic taste for love.

‘Wonderful it is to find that the change producted by respiration, which seems to injurious to us (for we cannot breathe air twice over), is the very life and support of plants and vegetables that grow upon the surface of the earth. It is the same also under the surface in the great bodies of water; for fishes and other animals respire upon the same principle, though not exactly by contact with the open air.’ Michael Faraday,  A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle, Chatto & Windus, 1861

‘Causes of Deforestation: The over-exploitation of forests for timber, fuel, agricultural land, and other basic needs has led to widespread deforestation and pollution - wiping out more than half of the world's original forest cover. Around 1% of the world's forests are lost every year. Two million hectares disappear each year in Brazil alone and this figure is on the increase. Forests are highly sensitive to climate change and up to one third of currently forested areas could be affected by climate change in some way, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a group of more than 2,500 of the world's leading scientists). Global warming poses myriad threats to the survival of rainforests. Warmer temperatures and changing rainfall patterns may create the conditions for increased forest fires. In addition, as global temperatures rise, tree species may not be able to shift their range fast enough to survive.’ BBC, 2006

‘Arguably the most important book published this century was Silent Spring (1962), which prompted governments in many countries to restrict the use of pesticides.’ Faber Book of Science, 2005

Just one tree

The life of just one tree is enough to sustain me

in the city - today twinkling her last gold leaves

embroidered with frost I’d gather but know

they’d dull at touch - such fine ice-stitching

disappear like snowflake crochet – recalling

how these messages I wrote romantically on

orange leaf stars to send to friends from the wild

country, my burning autumn paper, decomposed

into black fuzz on crumbling papyrus by morning,

and the poem of that gold day was not preserved.

The tree is writing an intricate, austere branch

poem on unrelenting blue - last green vowels

reddening, laying down their gilded letters, 

hurting the sort of sky that makes you cry.

She conducts me by eye and root, to earth -

knowledge of the seasons – just by looking;

she connects me as emblem, as living symbol,

a hundred times a day I charge myself by her -

with what is happening beneath the concrete,

imposition on the landscape, under my feet -

standing rigidly Victorian, somewhat imperious,

but a bit mussed up – neurotic, lonely, enclosed;

shivery, still wild at heart in the human zoo –

she still desperately helicopters winged keys,

little, dry brown angels of her cause, humble

as dun sparrows, that will never unlock green

chemistries of air and sun; earth, trunk, bark –

never unfurl the billion leaves, tight as a bomb,

inside each one - that could grow until the end

of time; the whole Poem of the Sycamore Tree

concentrated, contained in all her fallen seeds,

raining on me; her aerial bombardment sparks,

electrocutes - energises my green DNA - preserved

in sisterly spirals, like an alien evolved from human

spores; I am sucking future spring leaves, whole trees -

storing the energy by some profound, ancient synthesis.

‘A red red leaf, disintegrating in the dirt,// burns with the heat of an acetylene flame.’ Arthur Tze

Blood Roses

Blood roses splash

the winter garden –

why do they stay,

doomed blooms,

becoming unhinged -

dropping red body parts,

burning even snow;

until their hearts are black,

open to stars,

naked on thin green mouths.

The painting of a flower is a shroud

The painting of a flower is a shroud -

her tissues thickened to comprehension,

her millennial colour factory aped -

never will her petals be truly rendered,

her dimensions of beauty and purpose

portrayed; her nature is fleeing through

the green straw, returning to earth -

these flowers will never have seed;

her vibrant chemistries

are not translated here.

To some few - hot sunflowers to Van Gogh,

she gives bright glimpses of the floral spirit,

her understanding of light and perfume, bees;

and the symbiotic love of blue, water, earth –

and these marks are beautiful, though just

human smudges, phantasms; crude masks.

The Rose being against all chance and probability - 

‘I look at this young rose, cupped so plump in my hand - so burningly

red as if she should burn me, sizzle skin at her fiery crimpled edges. Towards her centre, she deepens to crimson, then sinks to a heavy wine shadowing her arterial core. And I think how time and chance and the black space among stars and the stars themselves, were stacked against this red beauty, heavy as a heart in my palm.   

  How it would come to be here - her slow formation from dust, gases, star granules; moist molecules gluing with light – like us, growing her own blood colour from the sea. From transparency of water came this extravagance of scarlet bloom, poreless skin texture. From assimilation of the Universe’s overarching physics, slowly building her own organic hinges that can sense sun and evening – night, rain, bees and morning.

If I parted her clutched face, her yellow-rimmed iris would glare – some kind of eye, as our iris is some kind of flower.

  She exemplifies the simultaneous culture of beauty and wounding thorn. She has created herself to be emblematic; so symbolic we can read and send her messages to ourselves, another species. With her nearness to our red heart, her own interpretation of red blood, she has become love; a message in herself. Her thorns and flower are her meaning.

She is the red and perfumed exemplar of the millennial manipulation of chemicals – such high chemistry to express breeding, survival and beauty as one concept. One realisation into oxygen, carbon dioxide - her seductive cocktails of particular colour, earth and light.

Once, there was nothing, and then came this rose – aeons passing in that sentence. From darkness to creativity; nothing to this living red weight of beauty I can touch and smell.

Then, it as if the world holds out a fact to me like a lover handing over flowers - the beauty of the rose is part of the truth of the flower, its Rosehood. The concept of truth expressed in the actual word of the rose, being of the rose in my hand, right here - in the rose being beautiful to my eye, perfume embellishing her presence in the world, establishing her survival with bonus aesthetics. And moved as a child, I cry at such fabulous simplicity, the luck of the world being beautiful - being able to hold a burning red rose in your hand on a sad morning - noticing how my tears and the silver rain beading on her skin, are indistinguishable.’