Now we understand

          Now we understand (2)

why the shaman, Native American Indian,

can peel, shoehorn, share; inhabit the body,

beating animal prowl - hunt, heat of a hungry Bear;

circle in high screaming Eagle with sprouted wings,

wearing the eagle like a golden-feathered coat -

thundering the plain, four-legged, barley mane

flowing; focus in owls’ underworld eyes -

night’s yellow portholes; the light of stars

enough to read the quivering signs of mice

for murdering, hearing wind words spoken

by trees, Moon’s sustained white howl

calling to wolves, madmen, distant sea.

Can feel blood run green in company of grass,

opening fingers like fast flowers blossoming -

re-colonising old co-ordinates, ancient homes

on mother planet, where nothing is forgotten;

everything sanctified, coded, remembered by life,

in stores pin-numbered, accessible - legible to us.

Now we understand (3)

why flies suffering at windows,

buzzing puzzlement - bumping

into solid air, fills us with irritated

pity; we remember such dementia.

Why insane birds breaking a neck

on nothing makes us cry; butterfly

struggling in undusted spider web

twists the heart’s tough red muscle,

because these beauties we once had,

mattered on Earth - part of the sum

of beauty composed of these small

notes playing swelling movements,

communal waves; we went on to write

concertos, poetry - the butterfly stayed

in Evolution’s breathing space, just to

work patiently on such fantastic wings;

this fabulous incarnation of molecules -

how to sleep its way towards that beauty,

from ugly roots, lowliness on soil, leaves -

be symbolic in transformation; fly, inspire.

Now we understand (4)

why the lurching rabbit’s drunken stagger,

myxomatosis - cultured in Hell by humans,

turns our gut - trapped fox scream, broken

stag cluttered heavily on the tarmaced road

that was once his freedom, running ground,

have sounds wounding like a child’s crying -

hurting the heart, forcing those hot red tears

that come from the heart - trickle like blood,

as the burning salt waters of unreturned love.

Good tears that come like warm pearls, cultured

by experience, compassion, rolling down cheeks,

beautiful - each one starred with original light -

not yet can these form, fall - the blood and water

too near familial pain, such close blaze - as once,

we were all of them; genetically enabled, can feel

every hurt to every animal across the whole world.

Now we understand (5)

why the dusk-muffled, dusk-ruffed, dust-

coat wolf slinks our dreams, fears, stories;

furry bulbs jutting under wingless shoulders,

hunched huffily - owl-yellow lights of eyes -

wild and kind to wolf children, children;

remember Romulus and Remus, not just

Little Red Riding Hood, her stupid mother

sending her child through the forest alone.

Barely contained out of legend - he howls

as we sleep; melancholy outrage to grimly

frowning Moon - all her beasts so weird -

scary with huge black eyes; not butterflies,

honey bears, tiger kittens already printed

with permanent flames, skippy kangaroos

to make her laugh for centuries - gorgeous,

dazzling white bears; even that Polar blood

a savage red poem on the page of ice - Seal-

life Extinguished for Meat of Snow Creature.

I saw your wolf teeth flash in temper; watch men,

angry - they are gorillas, bears, cave men, wolves.

In the bones of myth, the mad rattle fleshy cages,

fenced within their brains - sometimes being free

on Full Moons - when modern mental wards still

fill; lunacy is a fact, this is true; werewolves exist,

but not as human imagination will build - elaborate,

colour anything, magnificently, given half a chance;

but transformation, remembrance gone wrong;

only one in a million dangerous - like the sane.

‘You might expect, following our noble ban on fox-hunting in Scotland, we’d have more foxes too, but a major survey of fox scats - that’s poo to you – during the nationwide foot and mouth ban demonstrates categorically that hunting has no effect on fox numbers. So ya boo to the preposterous pro-hunt lobby which, among its panoply of ludicrous ‘arguments’, claims hunting is vital to control fox numbers, and that they doubled - ha, ha, only after 12 double whiskies - during foot and mouth. Just like they claim half the country will be unemployed if there’s a UK ban due to our heavy dependence on the dog-feeding economy. Still, what do you expect of people who say – like those still claiming the world is flat – foxes don’t suffer being chased by a pack of snarling beasts until their lungs nearly burst and then ripped to pieces when it’s obvious to anyone more perceptive than a jellyfish. I want a ‘live’ test, a running huntsman smeared with fox scent - if he admits fear, he gets airlifted out before the kill. It’s the sheer dishonesty of pro-hunters that gets me, their persistence with spurious arguments. Why don’t they just admit it? The simple reason they want to hunt is that they enjoy the cruelty, the suffering and terror of the animal, their collective mob power over it. They feel blood lust the way people once flocked to the gladiators or dog fights or executions. It appeals to the most barbaric and degraded part of human nature that we’ve spent centuries trying to civilise – if they have not succeeded in this like the rest of us, tough. Two thirds of foxhunters say they’re prepared to break the law to hunt - great, sling ‘em in prison like any criminals. It’s time to get tougher. Kids with funny hair dancing in a field would soon be arrested.’ Gillian Ferguson, column, Scotsman newspaper

Foxes, like owls, wolves, cats, doves

Foxes - like owls, wolves, cats,

doves, cross normal boundaries;

tripping us up invisibly - stumbling,

looking for goddesses, fairies, God;

angels in blazing holy clouds

drifting close to Earth - water

spirits, sun-gods, ancient river nymphs -

re-born as wet maidens, frothing in lace.

Fox’s one ballet dancer red toe

poised on a single grass blade -

he prickles, trembles in startled evening,

orange eyes sparkled by dim blueness -

he samples printed air, always smiling

a little like cunning dolphins – nothing;

he relaxes into a silver-speckled dusty

summer evening like a slung wrap on

green carpet - panting, limp fur rug.

He likes stories, mischievous rogue,

has something of sparkling Casanova,

leaping to his twinkling amber feet -

daintily nimble towards camp; suddenly

a writing tangerine line streaking across

navy grass - firing himself from the strung

muscular bow of his fit body; catching fire

slowly in sunset taper-sun, as courier spark

of summer light - drawing the final flames

to his burning fur, pilot fires of ancient gold-

coin eyes - showing in this gorgeous orange

print, red athleticism, sprung, rustless movement;

his hunt and murder is an affront - brutal assault

on Nature’s original orange animal fire; centuries

fanning his particularity, burning brush held aloft,

torch-tail, trophy - organic fur-flames highlighting

twilight gloom; he has learned to dance for rabbits,

mesmerising insanity, hypnotic Dance of Death,

cultured from hunger and intelligence, art of fox –

he is not intended - nurtured four billion years,

for dogs bred maddened - mutated from friend,

pet, fox-brother, to crazy cannibals, hellish species;

Hell-hounds genetically created by man – instinct

perverted - the sparkling, savage sequences

for hunting food, beaten crudely into cruelty; 

against decency, communality of genes,

compassion that gave tears to humans -

he is pursued, in burning, wingless flight -

the hellish legion howls behind, like Tam

O’Shanter, fleeing Alloway’s auld haunted Kirk -

the fox is a holy animal, sacrificed to dark orders;

who is lifted up from blood - red fur flag,

by animal-angels, starling-sheen shadows,

black-winged as crows - snarling at scarlet

huntsmen, who are blind to the flock above

in violated air; bat-flicker too fast

for the eye - taking notes, names.

‘Genetic methods can be used to give researchers a much deeper level of understanding of organisms in their environments. Molecular approaches can be used, for instance, to help track the movements of individual organisms:ecologists have distinguished over 2,000 individual humpback whales using genetic fingerprints obtained from skin scrapes and can consequently monitor whale movements over long distances in great detail. Similar techniques can establish how or even whether different populations of species interact: the survival of small isolated populations of water voles in Scotland was thought to be threatened by mink until DNA studies showed high levels of genetic mixing with nearby vole populations. DNA studies also confirmed that pipistrelle bats in the UK are not just one species, but two.’ Medical Research Council, UK, 2000

‘I see Loxomma, the amphibian, his flesh fallen away to reveal the long column of his spine and the little bones of his hands and feet. The spine is lengthening, vertebra after vertebra, without end, and running through the vistas of their bony arches there is a mounting current, a sense of the passage of some energy and power…’ Jacquetta Hawkes, A Land, Cresset Press, 1951

‘We see these beautiful co-adaptations most plainly in the woodpecker and mistletoe; and only a little less plainly in the humbles parasite which clings to the hairs of a quadruped or feathers of a bird; in the structure of the beetle which dives though the water; in the plumed seed which is wafted by the gentlest breeze; in short, we see beautiful adaptations everywhere in every part of the organic world.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘’Diagrammatic nano-structure of a female Malayan Eggfly butterfly reflector’

‘A butterfly photonic crystal lattice’

‘The black and white magpie lark camouflaged against lily pad’

‘A Honduran milk snake’

A wasp and its hoverfly mimic’

‘The mimic octopus’

‘Light micrographs of chromatophores of an oar-footed shrimp.’

‘A transparent oar-footed shrimp’

‘The wings of a bumble bee and a hawk-moth compared.’

‘An electron micrograph of the anti-refelctive surface of a hawk-moth’s wing’

‘The possible change in polarisation as a beam of sunlight passes through a transparent object’

‘A countershaded black marlin’

‘Drawing of a silverfish insect reproduced from Hook’s Micrographica’

‘Section of a photophore of the shrimp Nyctiphanes norwegica.’

‘A hatchet fish from mid-deep water’.’’

From List of Illustrations, Andrew Parker, Seven Deadly Colours, Simon & Schuster, 2006

‘80% of the worlds ancient forests have already been destroyed or degraded. Industrial and often illegal logging is still destroying an area of ancient forest the size of a football pitch every two seconds… Around two-thirds of the world's land-based species of plants and animals live in ancient forests. That's hundreds of thousands of different plants and animals, and literally millions of insects.’ Greenpeace, 2006

‘The pygmy sea horse camouflaged against coral.

ULTRAVIOLET: An ultraviolet photograph of a primate’s head. No colours visible to humans are used in this photograph.

VIOLET: South East-Asian butterflies. The upper butterfly is a female Malayan Eggfly; the lower butterfly is a male Blue Crow.

BLUE:  ‘Sea sparkles’ (dinoflagellates) in a cup of sea water. This photograph was taken by Peter Herring in complete darkness and without a camera flash.

GREEN: An enigmatic blue frog, Rana caerulea, and a green tree frog of Australia.

YELLOW: a crest feather of the Sulphur-crested cockatoo…

ORANGE: A milk snake with a twist

RED: A dragonfish of the deep sea, cheating the ‘rules’ of colour.

From Plate Section, Andrew Parker, Seven Deadly Colours, Simon & Schuster, 2006

‘Simply, we are blind to what is happening in the skins, furs, feathers, shells and spines of animals…On the painter’s palette lie violet pigments, blue pigments, green pigments, yellow pigments, orange pigments…on nature’s palette are violet nano-optics, blue bioluminescence, green pixel permutations, yellow fluorescence, orange optical illusions…there are even colours we cannot see!..the silver colour of fish, the iridescence of shells and the changing colours of cuttlefish. These biologists helped me shape my study within the seeming infinity of nature’s colour.’  Andrew Parker, Seven Deadly Colours, Simon & Schuster, 2006

What art in a single silver scale

What art in a single silver scale -

shining, plasticised skin; rainbow

hue of salmon leaping from water

in radiant arcs - living iridescence,

luminosity; violet nano-optics, bio-

luminescence, fluorescence, mother-

of-pearl bellies of opened molluscs;

purple-blue mussels in black closed

choirs singing now in outgoing tide.

How inadequate, manufactured

pigment strokes to approximate

these hues given to bird, beetle,

fish; humblest deep sea creatures,

glowing with supernatural light -

starlight, iridescence of natural

miracle; adaptation of millennia

for just one peacock feather cast

from the dust - made, completely

shimmering in genetic chemistry

of beauty, light, artful molecules.

I stroke my corn-haired arm -

imaging my own dazzle, sun-

capture, unconscious reaction -


indefineable by any exquisite

human art, meaning or form;

being beautiful solely by Nature

with no contrivance - just aeons

of culminated art; such colours

befitting transcription of heaven,

split from burning white stars -

celebration of hidden spectrum,

where such shades are imagined.

‘Sea Lilies/ aren’t any kind of flower,/ but we fancy they flaunt calyx,/ petiole, and sepal, imagine/ them feeding ocean bees,/ pretend their chalk-stems/ bear sap, their splayed feet,/ clasping against the currents, / are real roots./  We call them lilies, these beasts in drag/ that wave petal-arms in the wind of the sea bed…they carry the ages/ lightly in their hollow stalks,/ spread their corollas to eat/ the passing moments, finding no need to bloom.’ Sea Lilies, D.A Feinfeld

‘On Earth, most primitive animals and plants get their energy by absorbing ultra-violet light from the Sun. This is called 'photosynthesis'. Humans and other animals get their energy by eating plants, or other animals. So all animals ultimately rely on energy from the Sun to live.’ BBC, 2006

‘The higher animals are not larger than the lower because they are more complicated, they are more complicated because they are larger. Just the same is true of plants.’ JBS Haldane, Possible Worlds and Other Essays, Chatto & Windus, 1927





Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Zoo
        Now we understand
    Gene Garden
    Earth Poems

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