The Also Ran

The hare wasn’t there. The hare was nowhere
To be seen, a sheen
Of kicked-up dust, the hare’s coat,
Every hair of the flank of the hare so sleek, so chic,
It was sponsored, it caressed his physique.
Out of sight, out of mind, the unsponsored tortoise fell
Into a vertical sleep that sank him deep
Down in his shell. He dreamed. He smelled the smell
Of formula one. The stop, start
Of his own heart slowed on the chicaned road
To hibernation. He dreamed station
After station flew past the filmy blue
Carriage window of dwam, his shell a bullet train
Trained to hurtle, to startle, but with tortoise feet,
Not wheels, not rails making the beat,
Beat, beat of speed. He felt torque eat
All of him, call to him, willing him, through him
Birling the earth. A surge, a rebirth
Hurried him on. Each hour, each day
Rushed further away. As he slept, stock still,
Every path, track, hill, housing estate, landfill
Site, every dawn, noon, night
Shot past faster, a happy disaster, a true
Gift of the gods, a one-off, out of the blue,
Till waving children, doe-eyed does, sped past
Ahead of sound, and the tortoise thought earth might
Out-accelerate light, the planet’s race, pace, place
In the universe changing. Then, ranging
Further than any dream has ever gone,
The tortoise shone. A comet. A meteor. Shone,
His shell a re-entering rocket, a capsule straight down like a stone
From outer peace. Och, plunged in the innermost space
Of the dream, he was sure he had lost, and so sure he had won
In his way, and would have his day, the Spring Day
Of the Slow Start. He played his part
Well. He sang his dream and in the spring its claim
On his listeners grew. They knew, like you
And I, it was true.
Even the hares, when they heard what he said, stopped dead
Inside themselves, beside themselves, stunned
At how the tortoise seemed to have gunned, to have shot
From the starter’s pistol by staying stock still. They thought
It was great, it was cool. They loved
How he hadn’t moved but the earth had sped beneath him.
They were with him. When he sang, they sang along,
Whiskering, whistling his song. And the tortoise, sleepy, wiser,
Let them sing. And the hare? He was nowhere. A survivor
Off in a puff of dust, but in the huff
That sharper, tougher, fitter, leaner, thinner,
He was only the winner.

A Gean Tree

At the Botanics,
I stand under, I understand
a gean tree, suddenly,
eyeing its
blossoms at night, its
lamplit flutter
by my mouth –
petal on petal
not grown
up root and branch, more
or flounced down
from stars, a damp
nebular dance, a drifted
spring manna
not yet landed
where each of us
with thanks
must take our time.


in memory of Colin Matthew

I, day.
I, crinoid. I, bristle-worm.
I, Goliath beetle. I, moss. I, orb spider.
I, magnolia. I, wobbegong. I, spurge hawk moth.
I, thallus. I, water. I, cyathozooid. I, horseshoe crab.
I, pink flower mantis. I, swallowtail. I, prairie dog. I, locust.
I, capercailzie. I, manta ray. I, rattlesnake. I, sycamore. I, manatee.
I, honeybee. I, saddleback. I, lamprey. I, coelocanth. I, okapi. I, salmon.
I, snapper. I, fire. I, anolis lizard. I, orchid. I, tree frog. I, iguana. I, ant.
I, skink. I, sidewinder. I, archaeopteryx. I, hoatzin. I, heron. I, king penguin.
I, saddle-billed stork. I, bird of paradise. I, cormorant. I, bower bird. I, macaque.
I, cassowary. I, darter. I, armadillo. I, marmoset. I, bluebell. I, humpbacked whale.
I, possum. I, spruce. I, sequoia. I, gibbon. I, zebra. I, wild dog. I, chimpanzee. I, sloth.
I, wallaby. I, Washingtonia. I, pearly nautilus. I, heron. I, tupaia. I, ptarmigan. I, skunk.
I, brachiopod. I, dolphin. I, bear. I, dachshund. I, koala. I, chiwawa. I, vampire bat. I, vole.
I, silverfish. I, hornet. I, camelia. I, panther. I, chipmunk. I, primrose. I, tyrannosaurus rex.
I, crown-of-thorns starfish. I, argus pheasant. I, human. I, chameleon. I, stick insect. I, bract.
I, thorny devil. I, Portuguese man o’ war. I, moon rat. I, flying fish. I, blue-footed booby.
I, ferret. I, sparrow. I, lion. I, komodo dragon. I, thistle. I, yucca moth. I, stratocumulus.
I, cicada. I, apatosaurus. I, kakapo. I, dipper. I, tapir. I, gurnard. I, segmented worm.
I, Venus’ flower basket. I, tiger. I, stork. I, microbe. I, mallee fowl. I, hummingbird.
I, macaw. I, dragonfish. I, hawkmoth. I, jaguar. I, impala. I, caecilian. I, sea-horse.
I, swimbladder. I, orang-utan. I, Douglas fir. I, pipa toad. I, woodpecker. I, air.
I, wryneck. I, baboon. I, parakeet. I, horse. I, hedgehog. I, protistan. I, weasel.
I, great crested grebe. I, mushroom. I, hydrogen. I, limpet. I, flying fox.
I, hammerhead. I, mudskipper. I, brittle star. I, pig. I, gecko. I, gannet.
I, axolotl. I, tortoise. I, solenodon. I, python. I, parrot. I, toucanet.
I, monkey-puzzle. I, oxygen. I, hyena. I, gourami. I, springbok.
I, moa. I, ichthyosaur. I, daffodil. I, buzzard. I, impala.
I, numbat. I, albatross. I, cat. I, liverfluke. I, slug.
I, lancelet. I, hesperornis. I, crocodile.
I, vervet monkey. I, salamander.
I, night.

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