‘Lastly, there is the soil.  We think of the stuff we walk on as earth, the natural material of our planet, and so it is. But it was not there at the start. Mars and Venus and the Moon have nothing like it. On them there is only what is called regolith, naked broken stone and dust. By contrast, our soil… is a museum of past life.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘The crust of the earth is a vast museum.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘Soil is not unalive. It is a mixture of broken rock, pollen, fungal filaments, ciliate cysts, bacterial spores, nematodes and other microscopic animals and their parts…Independence is a political, not a scientific term.’ Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, What is Life?, 1995

‘ things – including ourselves – and the planet that has produced them form a continuous system and act as such.  Life, then, has not been just a casual passenger of the earth’s development. It has always been and remains a crucial agent in determining its course…The new scientific arguments bring back into focus the traditional imaginative vision of a living earth.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘Life and the Universe are inextricably intertwined.’ John Gribbin, Stardust: the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people, Penguin, 2001

‘My very window-ledge, the confidant of bygone ages, talks to me of a vanished world. It is, literally speaking, an ossuary, each particle of which retains the imprint of past lives. That block of stone has lived. Spines of sea-urchins, teeth and vertebrae of fish, broken pieces of shells, shivers of madrepores form a pulp of dead existences. Examined ashlar by ashlar, my house would resolve itself into a reliquary, a rag-fair of things that were alive in the days of old.’ Fossils, JH Fabre, Insect Life, Souvenirs of a Naturalist, trans, Macmillan & Co, 1901

‘In a sense, human flesh is made of stardust.’ Nigel Calder, the Key to the Universe, BBC, 1977

‘Microbes make up over a half of all Earth's biomass. A mouthful of seawater accidentally swallowed sends millions of different bacteria into your gut. To unravel the complexity of life on our planet in order to understand more about where humans come from, Dr Venter embarked on a round the world ocean voyage to take samples of seawater every 200 miles. At every stop he found new species. At one location, one barrelful contained 1.3 million new genes and 50,000 new species, he said.’ BBC, 2005

‘Hence orient Nitre owes its sparkling birth,/ And with prismatic crystals gems the earth,/ O’er tottering domes the filmy foliage crawls,/ Or frosts with branching plumes the mould’ring walls:/ As woos Azotic Gas the virgin Air,/ And veils in crimson clouds the yielding fair.’ Erasmus Darwin, The Economy of Vegetation, 1791

Earth in my hand

Unassuming beneath communicating foot,

singing her primaeval song - recomposed

each season, calibrated to spring; intoning

green and blood - her brown mouth opened

by light in seeded dark, lighting slow white

fuses - which are organic light, strung from stars -

powered to formulate photosynthesis, in darkness;

wiring the whole world, connecting her to sunlight,

converting the waters, enzymes, bacteria, nutrients,

in alchemising chemistries - art of colour and food

orchestrated on a grand global scale. But this night

will frost her into somnolence - I bury my autumn

hand, burning goldenly - cup a crumbling palmful.

My thumb crushes her chimeric body - I smell her

like a loved man’s warm neck, my fingers printing

her with a shell. This she still remembers - fossils,

dinosaurs, are recorded here - dragonflies the size

of seagulls; giant ferns - snuffling shrews we were.

Even monsters quietened in her dust of fallen stars;

at last where we all come from, home - and all end.

‘I wrought on with the eagerness of a discoverer entering for the first time a terra incognita of wonders - almost every fragment of clay, every splinter of sandstone, every limestone nodule contained its organism – scales, spined, plates, bones, entire fish…’ Hugh Miller, the Old Red Sandstone, 1841

‘Survivor of terrible airs, it proved/ how far life will go to plant its seeds, hatching/ at the planet’s frigidest inch an infinitesimal,/ pink, pedestrian mite with a liking for lichen?... the pink mite feeds in polar pastures, replete as a sheep on the green.’ Dorothy Donnelly, The Pink Mite

‘I took in Febrary three-tablespoonful of mud from three different points, beneath water, on the edge of a little pond; this mud, when dry weighted only 6¾ ounces; I kept I covered up in my study for six months, pulling up and counting each plant as it grew; the plants were of many kinds, and were altogether 537 in number, and yet the viscid mud was all contained in a  breakfast cup!’ Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1959

Darwin’s Cup of Mud

A cup of mud. Smudgy, viscid; so modestly brown

compared to the blatant magic of the peacock. Shy

with hidden seed - in this dark, flowers are origamied

to invisibility; their coloured flags, sugar and perfume,

folded, over and over - condensed by a deathly process

to the ruthless symbol of the flower – beauty imploded

to potential - as the light of four billion summers

is collapsed into darkness, hypothesis of memory.

But blooms will be found in preserved seed documents,

volumes of colour, sun chemistry, the art of luring bees;

encrypted script to write the world with festivals of flowers,

reading out the red words of the rose; white lyric of the lily.

Such humble illustration - showing the poem of 537 plants

in a cupful of mud; established principles of plantery birth -

their miraculous, fantastical nature. Which, if Darwin waited

long enough, would keep evolving to become Adam and Eve.

‘They [Mars and Venus] had atmospheres close to equilibrium, like exhaust gases, and both were dominated by the equally unreactive gas carbon dioxide. [By contrast] the earth, the only planet we know to bear life, is in a deep state of disequilibrium… Earth’s atmosphere is like a dilute form of the energy-rich mixture that enters the intake manifold of a car before combustion:hydrocarbons and oxygen mixed… An awesome thought came to me. The earth’s atmosphere was an extraordinary and unstable mixture of gases, yet I knew that it was constant in composition over long periods of time. Could it be that life on earth not only made the atmosphere but also regulated it – keeping it at a constant composition and at a level favourable for organisms? ‘ James Lovelock, Gaia, The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, Gaia Books, 1991 

‘The idea [of Gaia] first arose out of considerations about the difference between the earth and its sibling planets. James Lovelock was employed by NASA in the early 1960s…Lovelock found that there is indeed a whole range of mechanisms by which the presence of life seems, from its first appearance on the earth, to have deeply influenced the atmosphere in a way that made its own continuance possible when it otherwise would not have been. The scale on which this happens is hard to grasp.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘…but how would you like the world, if all your meadows, instead of grass, grew nothing but iron wire – if all your arable ground, instead of being made of sand and clay, were suddenly turned into flat surfaces of steel – if the whole earth, instead of its green and glowing sphere, rich with forest and flower, showed nothing but the image of the vast furnace of a ghastly engine – a globe of black, lifeless, excoriated metal? It would be that - probably it was once that; but assuredly it would be, were it not that all the substance of which it is made sucks and breathes the brilliancy of the atmosphere; and, as it breathes, softening from its merciless hardness, it falls into fruitful and benificent dust; gathering itself again into the earths from which  we feed, and the stones with which we build; - into the rocks that frame the mountains, and the sands that bind the sea.’ John Ruskin, Art Critic and Amateur Geologist, The Two Paths, 1858

‘The process of rock weathering can take place without life. But when life is present – when organisms are working on the rock and the earth that surrounds it – it takes place one thousand times faster than it would on sterile rock.’ James Lovelock, Gaia, the Practical Science of Planetary  Medicine, Gaia Books, 1991

Solid light

Crumbled in my hand - solid light -

product and fellow originator of life.

Substantial potion brewed by Earth

in cooling red cauldrons - millennia

salting, adjusting, developing chemistries;

photosynthesis, seed system - her flowers,

symbiosis with bees, insects above.

Her poetry writing the visible world

from magical darkness like a fist closed

hiding its fingers, capabilities - making

seasonal her understanding of elements,

resting her art; purging her programme,

burning her products into essential caskets

of DNA, written with her scripts, recorded;

the green music of the world – celebratory

daffodil trumpets clearly made of sunshine.

‘…Into this wilde Abyss,/ The Womb of Nature and perhaps her Grave,/ Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,/ But all these in their pregnant causes mixt/ Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight,/ Unless th’Almighty Maker them ordain/ His dark materials to create more Worlds…’ John Milton, 1608-74, Paradise Lost

‘The carbon which living things use to form their bodies mostly comes, directly or indicrectly, from carbon dioxide – the somewhat inert gas which, on the other planets, acts as a full-stop to atmospheric reactions…similar life-driven cycles can be traced for other essential substances such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and that more familiar precious thing, water. There is also the matter of warmth. During the time that life has existed on earth, the sun has become 25 per cent hotter, yet the mean temperature at the earth’s surface has remained always fairly constant. Unlike Venus, which simply went on heating up until it reached temepratures far above what makes life possible, the earth gradually consumed much of the blanket of greenhouse gas – mostly carbon dioxide - which had originally warmed it. Feeback from living organisms seems to have played a crucuial part in this steadying process and to have ensured, too, that it did not go too far. In this way the atmosphere remained substantial enough to avoid the fate of Mars, whose water and gases largely streamed away very early, leaving it unprotected against the deadly cold of space. Here again, conditions on earth stabilised in a most remarkable way within the quite narrow range which made continued life possible.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘Scientists have managed to create "primitive cells" in an experiment which may indicate that life began in space and was delivered to Earth. Researchers working with the American space agency Nasa say their "proto-cells" mimic the membranous structures found in all living things. They were produced in a laboratory experiment that duplicated the harsh conditions of cold interstellar space. It is possible such structures could have been important in protecting self-replicating molecules as they evolved into primitive life. These molecules could then have been delivered to a young Earth by comets, meteorites or interplanetary dust, where they kick-started life on our planet. "Scientists believe the molecules needed to make a cell's membrane, and therefore needed for the origin of life, are all over space. This discovery implies that life could be everywhere in the Universe," said lead researcher Dr Louis Allamandola.’ BBC, 2001

‘There is nothing new…with the idea that complex organic material is built up in space from simple atoms and molecules by the action of ultraviolet radiation; nor is there anything new in the suggestion that these precursors of life may have been brought down to earth by comets…The comets which proliferate in the outer part of our Solar System and occasionally pass through the inner regions near the Earth are known to be made of almost pristine interstellar material left over by the formation of the Sun and planets out of one of these interstellar clouds. It seems very likely, therefore, that any planet like Earth will be seeded with the raw materials for life almost as soon as it forms.’ John Gribbin, Stardust: the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people, Penguin, 2001

‘[James Lovelock] therefore compared the atmospheres of Mars and Venus with that of the earth and found indeed a startling difference. By this test Mars and Venus appeared, in a simple sense, static and dead.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘By that supremer Word/ O’ermastered, deafly heard/ Were hauntings dim of old astrologies;/ Chaldean mumblings vast, with gossip light/ From modern ologistic fancyings mixed,/ Of suns and stars, by hypothetic men…’ Uranus, Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-61

‘Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. The photographs show the dry pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dead as an old bone.  Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drift of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. If you had been looking a very long, geologic time, you could have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held aloft by the fire beneath. It has the organised, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvellously skilled in handling the sun.’ Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell, 1976

Do stars and planets dream of being Earth    

Do stars and planets dream of being Earth -

still deaf to the sound of the Word leaking

from the world’s rich atmospheric skins,

whispering for new homes in dry space.

Of being watered by the fatherly tears of God,

who, all emotional, saw that it was; born from

unpromising dust, blue and shining,

because His own breath was light -                         

His passion the Sun – and Moon -

caught in His negative inhalations,

turning Sun’s white ghost, but haunting light’s

nightly funeral with her musical shining bone.

He polished a gallery of stars to wait for men;

or did dinosaurs admire these stars? So even

darkness would know some light - a stuttering field

of silver questionmarks, gleaming, bright-eyed with

sleeplessness; festooned with twinkling, antique human

wishes, arrayed as celestial compass for migrating birds.

He waited. Nourishing His love in worms – leaves,

as it grew; living vehicles rehearsing life, exploring

knowledge of the Word - the sparkling mechanics

of organic flux; mysterious high chemistry of love.

And it was no hobby, Earth,

so much going on to watch -

Saturn drew coloured rings to pass the time;

among the bedtime stories of the day, Venus

grew beautiful and hot, but her knowledge of love

was not of God, but men - so every evening she is

first in line, last at the party, dressed in her solitary diamond.

And Mercury grew silver wings, a patient two month sunrise,

ran messages helpfully across the heavens,

but could not breathe an atmosphere alone,

so poisoned himself. Innocent Mars -

his face of powdered blood, felt hope

in germs and water breathing over red stones -

in being called a deity who guards the growing

fields; naming March, full of the meaning of light

and flowers - but his heart, unloved, stayed cold -

and so betrayed, he turned into a mini-god of war,

and you can still see the tracks of his bitter tears.

And Time came to plot the stars with mass and distance,

measurement arose to tame the Universe with estimates;

but Sun and water, Evolution, love, all came just to one -

only her dreams were realised; and no more Earths come. 

‘Another feature which alarmed some scientists was the use of the word ‘life’. Is it legitimate, if one accepts this way of thinking, to say that the planet itself is in some sense alive? … One objection made to calling the earth alive was that nothing can be alive unless it reproduces, and of course planets do not go out and mate with other planets. The development of the biosphere has therefore not proceeded, like that of particular species, by the mutation and selection of planetary genes. But it is not obvious that reproduction of this kind has to be a necessery condition for an entity’s being considered alive. Spermatozoa, for instance, are commonly thought of as being alive, since they visibly

swim around. They are unquestionably part of the process of life. But they do not mate with other spermatozoa to produce young and allow of natural selection between their progeny. Scientists can distinguish between living and dead spermatozoa without having to suppose them capable of reproducing on their own scale. Similarly, the distinction between Mars and Venus as dead planets and the earth as a living one can, as we have seen, be made by clear and relevant marks without any reference to planetary reproduction.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

‘Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi are central to the behaviour of many ecosystems: they play crucial roles in nutrient cycling and determine the resilience of systems to changes and stresses, such as those caused by pollution. There are about a million microbes in every gram of soil, but we know little about soil organisms and only one in a hundred will grow under laboratory conditions. Knowledge of microbial genomes, however, enables researchers to detect and analyse microbial activities even when that activity is due to unknown species. For instance, genetic information from one member of a group of related organisms allows researchers to detect, enumerate, or assess the activity of others in the group. Using DNA microarrays, researchers can assess which genes are switched on inside organisms at different times or under different environmental conditions.Thus they can study phenomena such as the capture of nitrogen from the atmosphere where the genes involved are very similar wherever the process occurs. Microbial genome projects will help work out how microbial communities in soil, water or on plant surfaces are affected by weather and climate change, or by human interventions such as fertilisation or pollution…Some of the 100 or so current microbial genome projects are investigating organisms that live under extreme conditions – in highly salty water, hot springs, deep sea volcanic ducts, radioactive environments, or arid deserts. The expectation is that these organisms will have evolved useful and exotic qualities that may be exploited commercially, just as we now use enzymes from heat tolerant organisms in washing powder and food processing.’ Medical Research Council, UK, 2000

Mystery even in the colonising of earth –

tiny unknown species seeming humble

to invisibility, existing out of knowledge

in dark places - just mimicking, being a

metaphor for life, hoping in any darkness;

just waiting on the light, to evolve further.

‘The first measurements of interstellar dust particles by Nasa's Stardust spacecraft suggest they are made of tar-like molecules that scientists believe could have played an important role in the origin of life on Earth. If confirmed, this discovery could mean that molecules drifting in space before our Earth was formed may have helped start life on our planet and by implication elsewhere in the Cosmos. "When they got in contact with liquid water on the young Earth, they could have triggered the type of chemical reactions which are prerequisite for the origin of life," said Jochen Kissel, of the Max Planck Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik, Germany. So far, five interstellar dust particles have been captured by the German-built Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyser (Cida), onboard the spacecraft.’ BBC, 2000

‘US scientists have decoded and analysed the genome of a bacterium which could help clear up radioactive waste and possibly even generate electricity. The Geobacter species has genes that allow it to convert uranium and other radionuclides dissolved in water to solid compounds that can be extracted. Its ability to manipulate electrons in metals could form the basis of a bio-battery, the US Energy Department says…The organism, called Geobacter sulfurreducens, was found in a soil sample in Oklahoma that was contaminated by hydrocarbons - the breakdown products of fossil fuel combustion. Researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research (Tigr) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, tell Science the bacterium has extraordinary capabilities The Massachusetts workers have previously shown that Geobacter species can precipitate a wide range of radionuclides and metals (including uranium, technetium and chromium) from groundwater, preventing them from migrating to wells or rivers where they may pose a risk to humans and the environment. Now, the genomic research has given some insights into how this is possible. G. sulfurreducens has 100 or more genes that appear to encode for various forms of c-type cytochromes. These are proteins that help move electrons back and forth. They enable G. sulfurreducens to "reduce" metal ions - in essence adding electrons to positively charged metal atoms so that they become insoluble in water and precipitate as part of solid compounds. These compounds are then more easily removed. Small charges of electricity are also created through the reduction process and this has raised the possibility that Geobacter could form part of a bio-battery. "We've provided a comprehensive picture that has led to fundamental changes in how scientists evaluate this microbe," said Barbara Methe, the Tigr researcher who led the genome project and is the first author of the Science paper. "Research based on genome data has shown that this microbe can sense and move towards metallic substances, and in some cases can survive in environments with oxygen." G. sulfurreducens was previously thought to be an anaerobic organism.’ BBC, 2003

Geobacter sulfurreducens

Conversion of uranium by a bacterium -

manipulating electrons at the deep heart

of metal - c-type cytochromes, proteins,

reducing ions - from its own identity -

adding electrons to positive atoms;

making insoluble, creating solidity

you can gather, remove – sparking

small charges, internal energy freed;

microbe sensing presence of metal,

as seeds are aware of light in dark -

Geobacter unafraid of such material

as men fear; the sword or radioactive

waste – a bullet or contamination.

Her alchemy is clinical, beautiful

in process, unexpected usefulness;

fundamental wizardry, simplicity -

you cannot see her work nakedly,

requiring the glasses of science -

her impulse to clean is Stepford

perhaps, compared to capability

hidden still among her micro-mysteries,

workings; in dark theatres, grim arenas,

where just one germ on a finger can kill

a man – and bring down a whole nation.


Is everything in the garden?

All answers undiscovered -

including mysteries of the brain

cultured, enhanced to find them.

What kind of holy fool destroys

his home; not just gorgeousness,

but magical properties designed

to cure, heal - make him happy.

‘It is not a fault in the iron, but a virtue, to be so fond of getting rusted, for in that condition it fulfils its most important function in the universe, and most kindly duties to mankind. Nay in a certain sense, and almost a literal one, we may say that iron rusted is Living; but when pure and polished, Dead. You all probably know that in the mixed air we breathe, the part of it essentially needful to us is called oxygen; and that this subatance is to all animals, in the most accurate sense of the word ‘breath of life’ [Genesis 2:7]…the main service of this metal, and of all other metals to us, is not in making knives, and scissors, and pokers, and pans, but in making the ground we feed from, and nearly all the substances first needful to our existence…’ John Ruskin, Art Critic & Amateur Geologist, The Two Paths, 1859

‘I look at the bright model they’ve designed,/ The Big Bang’s fury frozen into laws,/ Pleased to see it resembles a sonnet…’ Maura Stanton, Computer Map of the Early Universe

‘…Or disappear/ Into the grass-blade atom – one flare/ Annihilating the world/ To the big-eyed, simple light that fled/ When the first word lumped out of the flint.’ Ted Hughes, ORTS, 7 Poets

‘… then a seed in the vast womb of darkness/ I dwell in dim oblivion; brooding over me, the Enormous worlds/’ Reorganize me, shooting forth in bones & flesh & blood,/ I am regenerated, to fall or rise at will…’ William Blake, 1757-1827, Vala or the Four Zoas

The Spiralled Galaxies

Are the spiralled galaxies God’s fingerprints -

left burning silver, printed in the cooling wax

of youthful universe, black perpetual night;

trailing memories of light, beauty dreaming

of what yet may spring from dusty Milky Way

in agonies of time - among nurseries of stars -

what hatches in the gut of nothing much.

Feeling still the ecstasy of that hot touch,

longing for the word, magic chemistries;

creative shiver breathing from the Earth, 

where love makes green, fur and flowers -

water, sea, earth, blood and beating heart;

exploratory creatures are growing hands,

eyes, to see God’s spiralled fingerprints.

‘All white, grey, red, yellow, green, blue, violet bodies, as paper, ashes, red lead, orpiment, indigo bice, gold, silver, copper, grass, blue flowers, violets, bubbles of water tinged with various colours, peacock’s feathers, the tincture of lignum nephriticum, and suchlike, in red homogeneal light appeared totally red, in blue light totally blue, in green light totally green, and so of other colour…. From all which it is manifest that if the sun’s light consisted of but one sort of ray, there would be but one colour in the world.’ Sir Isaac Newton, Optics, 1704

‘Take the concept of life. Everyone knows that it is but few if any can define it. It is not even listed in the [standard] Dictionary of Biology. If my scientific colleagues are unable even to agree on a definition of life, their objections to Gaia can hardly be rigorously scientific. If we ask a group of scientists ‘What is life?’ they will answer from the restricted viewpoint of their own scientific disciplines. A physicist will say that life is a peculiar state of matter that reduces its internal entropy in a flux of free energy, and is characterised by an intricate capacity for self-orgnaisation… A neo-Darwinist biologist will define a living organism as one able to reproduce and to correct the errors of reproduction by natural selection among its progeny. To a biochemist, a living organism is one that takes in free energy as sunlight, or chemical potential energy, such as food and oxygen, and uses the energy to grow according to the instructions coded in its genes. To a geophysicist a living organism is a bounded system open to a flux of matter and energy, which is able to keep its internal medium constant in composition and its physical state intact in a changing environment: it is able to keep in homoeostatis…. Gaia would be a living organism under the physicist’s or the biochemist’s definition’. James Lovelock, Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, Gaia Books, 1991

‘I was really aware, visually aware, that the moon was in fact a sphere, not a disc. It seemed almost as if it were showing us its roundness, its similarity in shape to our earth, in a sort of welcome. I was sure it would be a hospitable host. It had been awaiting its first vistors for a long time…It was a unique, almost mystical environment up there.’ Neil Armstrong, Astronaut, first on the Moon, A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Little, Brown, 1970

‘Above me, the full moon, round and floating deep/ in its capsule of sky, never trembles./ In ten thousand years it will never involute/ Its whole frozen blastula to form a gut,/ Will never by a heart be called born.’ A. R. Ammons, Mechanism

‘Prime cheerer, Light!/ Of all material beings first and best!/ Efflux divine! Nature’s resplendent robe…’ James Thomson, 1700-48, The Seasons, Summer

The Sun has Betrayed Me

The Sun has betrayed me, negligent in June -

sleeping weeks on the summer job, eye shut;

selfishly dazzling only itself into oblivion -

slumming under unshorn rugs - matted filthy

cloudskins impregnated with rain - squalling,

fitfully bursting into tears like boozed-up kids.

And night sky is clotted with silver stars

I cannot see; twitching, feverishly silver,

dreaming hopelessly of romantic names;

why Earth alone has a soul, so much

water and light - cold electrodes that

cannot prickle flatline spirit with any

pilot light; ghosts of far, bloodless comfort,

diagrams of endlessness, perspective lamps,

clues to the nature of infinity - just nothing.

(Could I string myself up with fairy lights -

as dying pines become our Christmas trees;

synthetic inspiration - artificial soul-static.)

Behind this slushy orange candyfloss,

Moon conjunctivised by used Brasso

clouds, hard-polished night is black –

glutted with shining planets, God’s

mobiles for baby Earth, shining for

no-one and nothing - not even one

amoeba feasts photo-sensitive cells,

in growing desperation of knowing

light, dreams of an authored future.

Asthmatic wind gasps a ragged hole

in Cyclops sky; Moon eye and I look

back furiously at one other, and cry –

was it so much to ask, she howls -

some fire in my heart, useful light,

instead of this creepy stuff, luring

werewolves, lunatics, ghosts, witches;

enduring that endless labour of tides -

always bridesmaid, ethereal concubine

of night; ghost of her light? That lovers

in their shining milkskins - spooning

mercury eyes, might sometimes stay

just this happy, starstruck; not crossed?

She sighs at how it felt then - presence,

the company of it, weird breath sound,

after millennia alone; but just that once,

though she waits, cursed with knowing

now she is alone. Just imagine how it is,

how it feels to have it only that once -

presence; ticklish burning, warm breath,

intention - the gentle pressing of steps…

I had never been touched like that -

just the raining blows of meteorites,

dust storms when I no longer shut

my eye, like those African children

with flies in their eyes - I saw, felt,

even in the pure bone of my body;

imagined my smooth white shining

skin without these acne pocks, dry

powders. They might bring water,

then hardly would Man be able

to look upon me; life might be -

I began dreaming of the codes,

werewolves and lunatics

were left in peace, owls

became flesh and blood;

but after millennia, millennia,

just that once, so far - I wait

to be touched again, printed.

Was it so much to ask - some bright light

on my skin; for drinking pores to nourish

white heart tubers after the seasonal dark,

like the flower has become all mouth and eye.

Was it so much to desire the burning red brand

of August on my arms; chocolate heart melting

into happy indolence - some warmth in my blood,

before sharpening autumn, yet another new winter;

death of everything green, and all cheerful flowers,

as even heartless stones and cold lizards charge

themselves - comatose or asleep on sunny rocks,

grain stores its script - just some bloody summer.

‘Science attacks values… it subverts every one of the mythical or philosophical ontogenies upon which the animist tradition, from the Australian aborigines to the dialectical materialists, had based morality, values, duties, rights, prohibitions… Man must as last wake out of his millenary dream and discover his total solitude, his fundamental isolation… He must realise that, like a gypsy, he lives on the boundary of an alien world, a world that is deaf to his music, and as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his sufferings and his crimes. [Values] are his and his alone, but now he is master of them they seem to be dissolving into the uncaring emptiness of space… Life appeared on earth: what, before the event, were the chances that this would occur?… It’s a priori probability was virtually zero… Immanence is alien to modern science… Before [the human species] did appear, its chances of doing so were almost non-existent… the universe was not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game. Is it suprising that, like the person who has just made a million in the casino, we should feel strange and a little unreal?’ Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, 1974

‘It is very interesting to notice how Monod, after starting to talk about solitude at once drops back… into highly emotive social imagery – indeed, into what is surely animism. The cosmos, no longer impersonal, suddenly appears as indifferent and uncaring in a much stronger sense, like a human who ought to care about us but doesn’t… All these images are social and the point they share is a destructive one. They are all aimed at rejecting the most obvious model that strikes people when they think about their relation to the universe around them – namely, that of parent and child.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

The world has closed its heart to me

The world has closed its heart to me -

as dreaming evening flowers shut head

and eye. Just smatterings of stars smile

icily; sunlight skeletons, as photographs

of the dead still harbour light in their eyes.

Night’s sparkling vanities are all displayed,

her ruthless jewels; environments deathly

to bloody mortals, so totally Earthbound -

warm, heavy with gravity weighing the heart -

magnetising the tick-tock muscle to native soil.

Lighting grass and water silver,

sewing the lace on lazy waves,

mapping with clearly fictional stories,

bad hours that creep from midnight’s

blackest strokes, under companion Moon’s

relentless bright stone; cold mother of owls,

all overblown, flowerless black eyes,

the howling wolves and werewolves -

admiring herself in unnatural water-mirrors,

where restless stags imbibe madness, quiver

for the coming rut, hot clash of antlers,

for genetically necessary sex; survival.

As Holy Keeper of Earth Light by Night,

Vestal Virgin, who will never know life -

Queen Shining Bone, Thirsting Princess,

dreaming yet of water in her white dust -

she is my unnatural lamp. Look at the spooky

thing she does to my skin, makes me an effigy

of myself, shuddering in a chair - a memorial

to me, the laughing, animate entity I was once,

now unable to remember anything green

or beating - not one memory of a flower;

a cherry tree, kingfisher, tiger; my own dog.

She has cast the full numbing spell I confess

I wanted, desired at the bat-watching porch -

but stolen my scrapbook of coloured dreams,

my stored experience of happiness, love quota;

my conversations becoming like river language.

The warm genomic poetry of Earth is a myth

to her - she is lost to such organic knowledge;

but at least she is impersonally there,

present, her constant space-eye open,

when the world has closed its heart to me;

all other lights have burned out - and rain

comes in the dark ruins of a crumbled day,

when my hand lies empty as a broken cup.

‘It is inconceivable that inanimate brute nature should, without the mediation of something which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact, as it must do if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me.’ Sir Isaac Newton

The New Moon Shivers

The new moon shivers

out of swaddling cloud;

spindly sliver, skeletally naked 

among scrawny summer stars -

re-discovering night’s freakish light,

cryogenic sun-blood she will wear -

second hand; a hand-me-down

faded by a whole day growing,

energising, fueling organic creatures -

but to newborn dusty bone in darkness,

better than her own spectacular nothing;

infinite sad thirst for warmth and water.

‘A new and controversial theory on the origin of life on Earth is causing a stir among scientists. And one of the implications is that life could be more likely on planets where it was previously thought unlikely to flourish. The theory claims that living systems originated in so-called "inorganic incubators" - small compartments in iron sulphide rocks. Proposed by Professor William Martin, of Düsseldorf University, and Professor Michael Russell, of the Scottish Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow, it stands conventional ideas on their head. Instead of the building blocks of life forming first, and then forming a cell-like structure, the researchers say the cell came first and was later filled with living molecules.’  BBC News online, 2002

‘And if, Eternal falling, I repose on the dark bosom/ Of winds & waters, or thence fall into a Void where air/ Is not, not down falling thro’ immensity ever & ever,/ I lose my powers, weaken’d every revolution, till a death/ Shuts up my powers, then a seed in the vast womb of darkness/ I dwell in dim oblivion; brooding over me, the Enormous worlds/ Reorganize me,/ shooting forth in bones and flesh and bood,/ I am regenerated, to fall or rise at will, or to remain/ A labourer of ages, a dire discontent, a living woe/Wandering in vain. Here will I fix my foot & here rebuild./ Here Mountains of Brass promise much riches in their dreadful bosoms.’ William Blake, 1757-1827, Vala or the Four Zoas

‘The massy pillars of the earth…/ Which are to Nature lifeless bones,//… change slowly; but their dust remains,/And every atom, measured, weigh’d…// Nothing is lost; the etherial fire,/ Which from the farthest star descends,/ Through the immensity of space/Its course by worlds attracted bends…// To reach the earth.’ Sir Humphrey Davy, 1778-1829

So alone, blue planet

So alone, blue planet

in the aching black -

intemperate fire and ice -

sparking circuitry of stars

electrifying the endless dark vault

with pointless maps and colourful

planets; of beauty so severe

even light itself is enslaved,

as scintillating messenger of death,

delivering cups of bloodlet silver -

keeping long lost stars as ghosts -

shining Moon’s round white bone,

still looking so fabulous on the surface -

at a distance; like plastic surgery women.

So alone, turning, sunning

among swaddling clouds -

nursing how many creatures

in improbable continents far

away; unlikely sea kingdoms

beneath the blinding waves -

spinning her art of green -

opening flowers and eyes;

refusing the notion of absolute death -

as long as life hosts a single possibility.

How can she feed them all,

clutched to her earth breast;

but not one will she let go,

without a good fight, inner

and outer prescription

for cure, alleviation -

evolving the blood, liver,

heart - natural immunity.

How alone she is - alien, weirdo;

only one of her kind, endangered

species of the heavens.

What is her true nature

but the strange actuality of love,

between thought and chemicals,

intention and matter,

nothing and being -

the strange place of Earth and Man

among the mysterious life of God.


Earth’s blue eye always full of winking stars,

saying they knew more about the Universe -

could see more; hear whispers from speckled

cousins on and on - Chinese whispers saying

something about breeding to Infinity, but how

could that be; what did it mean to go on forever?

But they just kept twinkly-winking as if they knew -

revenge for her having all the creatures, water, light;

just the right amount of warmth and cold, probability-

blowing balance - how could that have happened, eh,

just this once; even their dreams just ice, fridge-light,

fire storms and poisonous summers; acidic, toxic rain.

And her outrageous close relatives - Mad-Aunt Sun -

too crazy to do anything but constantly fulminate light,

do anything creative for herself - and Spinster Moon -

ancient, caked, cratered granny in her crackling, dusty

make-up - acting as if she had never lived a little - yet

look at the mystery of that light; strange interpretation

of what light is, means and does. Acting as Sun ghost,

the family madness running subtly, everyone thinking

she’s weird, spooky, with her owls, ghosts and wolves;

but look at that flirting with cloud, dark body of night -

hiding herself teasingly, just a glimpse – a silver sliver,

thigh slash from long black sky gown - then flaunting

her evening dress of stars, her finery, full round curves;

complexion made perfect again in trowelled foundation

of light - lust with which she sucks sea, inhabits lovers’

eyes for her vicarious pleasure. See those tell-tale scales

of light, using any night corneae. She makes everything

kneel in her scary peace, illuminating water for mirrors.

‘In the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other than no material thing can ever have passed from one to another; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kind as those which we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the archives at Paris, or the double royal cubit of the temple of Karnac. No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules, for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, of generation or destruction. None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties, to any of the causes which we call natural.’ James Clerk Maxwell, Scientist, Discourse on Molecules, 1873 

‘In the case of the evolution of the human brain, I suspect that we are looking for something explosive, self-feeding, like the chain reaction of the atomic bomb...It is as though a random event nudged the hominid brain over a threshold, something equivalent to a ‘critical mass’, and then the process took off explosively, because it was self-feeding.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

Wow! Zong! Gee Whiz!

Wow! Zong! Gee Whiz!

Gazooks! Flippin’ eck!

BIG BANG! Av done it!

Aye, by Goad - nae kiddin’ -

nae chancin’; nae problem -

av cracked it, a really have!

BANG! CRACK! Just like blimmin’ that -

whin they raw materials, ken, a they gases

an dust - took sae o’erlong, well -

a began tae wonder if a really had it

in me; but a wiz just burstin’ wi Creation,

jigglin’ aroon wi a that energy and dreams,

nae able tae keep still at a wi’oot Life -

wi’oot makin’ summit in thon darkness

that wid daepress the stoutest soul,

which is me, OK - right enough -

an the lights came oan! Ma dark hoose

wiz a lit up - when yoos lot pit oan yir

Christmas lights ye kinda get somethin’

o the idea uv how a felt, thon wonder -

everythin wiz poassible, ad lit them masel,

by pitin thins in train - a wiz the taper, ken,

the burnin source, like – the spark. 

And maybe ad goat a bit impatient,

didnae really mean tae go BANG!,

but in the end it wiz the only wy -

an ad cheat again, a foresaw suddenly,

(happens whin ye’re omniscient, ken) -

in the Cambrian time that wiz goin tae come,

(see, av become fond o creative explosions) -

cos ye werenae comin’ fast enough

fir ma likin; ye need tae hiv created

life tae ken whit loneliness truly is -

Evolution tae ken whit patience is;

an as a found oot, IMPATIENCE!

In yir longin fir children - yir ane

bairns lookin’ back at ye wi love

shinin in thir een, an whit ye feel

when ye look back at them - created

oot of nothing, then yi ken how a feel.

But tae yir child’s ane wee finger,

tae the tip o their each eyelash -

who’d hae thocht it, thon time,

when ma energy exploaded -

in a that came tae be, the seeds o life.

Oh, the ecstasy o a Creator, the light -

Wow! Zong! Gee Whiz!

Gazooks! Flippin’ eck!

All the land round here is owned

All the land round here is owned; it’s almost

funny for a townie, that concept – ridiculous.

Sometimes such pomposity - tinpot ‘landowners’

of fairy-sized ‘estates’ where the livestock would

practically have to be hamsters - OK, Guinea Pigs.

Like those park people dragged along by 14-stone

Dobermanns shouting about how they own the dog.

All that happened is that one day, some time, a man

stuck his stick in the ground and said: ‘I own this’,

and though all the animals - grass, sky, sea, earth,

laughed, he laughed last - inventing things to make

his statement stick; though I cannot walk out, plant

my stick in the earth anymore, say: ‘This is my land.

I own this’, no, because that’s not allowed any more,

though clearly it must have been at some time,

so we’ve just all been born at the wrong time -

if you want to go around saying: ‘I own the land’

to make your weeself feel important, significant.

What a wheeze when they thought of that concept,

‘owning the land’ ; the Native Americans couldn’t

get their heads round it either; and no wonder,

what could be more unownable than the land?

Owning Earth is a philosophical impossibility;

how can anyone own views - stone mountains,

which here still bear the raw handprints of God.

And if I think of my body’s sparkling Genome,

strung with magic beads - how could any man

come with a flag, plant it in the ground of me -

like Americans laying claim to the Moon -

say he owns this patch or that. Earth could

not speak, but men can cry out, object, refuse -

the landscape of the Genome still being sacred.

Marvellous Metaphor! ‘Even Galileo’s descendents, in the deep sweet dream/ of objectivity weave, as once a physicist, dismissing metaphor/ and all its errancy, said, by way of illustration,/ ”The planet is only a tennis ball, with a bit of fuzz for life”.’ Emily Hiestand, Earth’s Answer


‘September 1st saw the launch of Stop Climate Chaos - a huge movement of people united in their concerns about climate change. Everyone lay on the ground together to form the shape of the Stop Climate Chaos symbol… Politicians can save millions of lives by keeping the average global temperature rise under two degrees C. That's the target. Our supporters are ready for the challenge. We hope this event will mark the beginning of a huge public movement to show that urgent action needs to be taken on climate change.’ Ashok Sinha, Director, Stop Climate Chaos 

We, the people, want to save Earth

An imaginary declaration

We, the people, want to save Earth -

the blue planet is our house -

alone in space, her warm life

outshines the lonely galaxies

of savage, tempestuous stars;

pinned as ruthless sparkling jewels

on black night’s cold, bony breast -

Moon cunningly disguising spinsterhood

in borrowed bridal gowns of light; being

shining chimera of the real means of blood -

projected in the sky, ghost of our living home.

From garden elements

we came; water, earth -

our fingers remembering

fin and wing - struggling

clumsily into warm skin

on alien shores - starfish

memories, blood sugars

red from first sea salts -

alchemising light

into green; eyes -

as we have rested here,

human, Homo Sapiens,

our genus, but stand

under one banner -

the insignia, Golden Eagle

of Earth’s natural empire -

embroidered with silver threads;

spirals of holy, original DNA -

we know we are many -

acting as one, formidable.

We will not abdicate responsibility -

no longer turn away as tiger flames

burn out, Polar Bears starve - melt

in their diminishing white kingdom.

As leopard pattern, butterfly wing –

drawn, perfected for a billion years,

cultured through creative seasons –

artistry and fruit of time and life,

are rubbed out - annihilated, lost;

poems of fur, scale, hair and eye,

torn from Life’s shining library -

her gleaming shelves written,

volume by volume, gene by

scripted gene; a billion stories

spawning twenty billion more.

Poisoned sea rocks her stone cradle

as more whales wash dead to shore.

We will not accept the ruination of the world -

the breathing trees are ours - they cannot be cut

without our say, suffocating our symbiotic lungs.

Catastrophic interference in Earth’s relationship

with Sun must be halted before we burn; cancer

stalks us in the spring and summer streets, turned

hunter under nurturing chemical blankets, once so

exquisitely worked. Ozone must be re-sewn; original

atmospheres re-embroidered, shimmering once more,

as century on century they did so for our good – food

and creatures; just the enjoyment of sunshine on skin,

pleasures of lying open and happy as a flower on grass,

our skin converting sunlight to vitamins, whiter bones.

We hear the words of trees as they burn - meaning spirals

in such holy smoke; our communal script part-translating.

We will not suffer this to happen in our name -

We, citizens of Earth, population of our planet,

will not be ignored; no longer will we be quiet.

Our voice is coming as the throat of the sea,

subterranean powers - our purpose as light

appearing, dawn-seeded, into man-made darkness.

We appear like star after star, staring over Earth -

have been too long silent - inactive, acquiescent -

demoralised, written off. But we will not abandon

wounded Earth, nor ever give up hope; her healing

spirit, self-perpetuating miracles, must have room -

from darkness she wrote herself, from nothing

brought forth leaf, flower, hand; heart and eye.

We will not abandon Earth to such barbaric men,

understanding nothing of this natural first music -

what unexpected alterations, annotations, deletions,

to cautiously experimental text, might bring, cause;

who do not understand the books of Nature are holy,

whatever face your God - whatever name that power

firing blue and green; seasons, skeletons, embryos;

whatever look your skin or angels, all are children

to the Earth - all embroidered in her fabric, written

in endless poems, verses of the great poem; herself.

We, the people, will not give up Earth to you.

We, the people, want to save the Earth.

In our entirety, collectively, right now -

those individuals who do not care

are just statistically insignificant

compared to our overwhelming numbers -

we are seas, mountains, covering continents;

of all colour and religions. We are citizens

of this planet, Earth - its beauties, wonders,

wildernesses, belong to us, even the poorest;

not to those who would destroy our heritage.

Earth is a once and only magical phenomenon -

its wellbeing and creatures are our responsibility.

Now we have come to dominate the whole surface,

affect the very skies and air - dirtied entire oceans,

existing and undiscovered species exiting

existence by our hands - this lays shame

upon our heads; we are polluted.

As our planet suffers, so do we -

we are one, indivisible; born from earth,

every man and woman is a close relative,

plants and animals our extended family;

their past and ours one - our communal

story written in scripted genes; endless

fantastic poem of Creation - Evolution.

Show us the men who are doing these things -

Show us the men who are doing these things -

permitting pollution, destroying, encroaching;

who let the Americans drive enormous cars

they do not need, on fuel artificially cheap -

businesses belch, protected, pollution

into defenceless air; Earth’s holy blue.

Who poisons the clear blood of old rivers,

arteries, hearts; who are the men burning

trees - expunging undiscovered medicines,

obliterating unknown species; let us speak

to them - to the person in charge of supermarkets;

tell them we don’t want all this packaging, plastic.

Help us remember, brought up so badly -

Earth’s selfish, rich, exploitative children,

to insulate, save, recycle, fund research;

support the doers - show us how to help.

But if it’s really us in charge, not them - destroyers;

if democracy matters, truly works, who let it happen,

abdicated responsibility? Let us then, the people,

speak to those in charge; tell them what we want,

now, in our name – destruction, damage stopped;

because we, the people, want Earth saved, healed.

Note from the author
exploring the project

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

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