The Slug, a Plea

Slugs. Never been a fan. As a gardener I have treated them as the enemy. But is that fair? Without slugs there would be an awful lot of rotting vegetable matter cluttering up the garden. Perhaps, as this poem suggests, I need to rethink my relationship to slugs.

The Slug, a Plea

You squash us
and slice us.
You bash us
and dice us.
It’s almost as if you don’t want us around.

We gnaw at your seedlings because they are weak,
the same for the hostas that bear a pale streak.
In vegetable patches and in the raised bed
we clear up the dying, the rotten, the dead.

You drown us
in beer traps,
Drop egg shells
without gaps.
Why is it us slugs that you torture and hound?

By munching the rubbish we make the ground clear:
we give you a space for your planting next year.
But take us away and the earth will be spread
with all of the dying, the rotten, the dead.

Relieve us.
Just leave us.
Ignore us,
don’t paw us.
We’re working with you on a shared piece of ground.

© Huw Evans 2019

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Fish 2

Some time ago I wrote a rather scathing poem about goldfish, those dull yet troubling pets. Over the years I have come to think the poem does fish a disservice. This sonnet, which looks at real piscine wonders, is the act of restitution. In the final collection (yes, I am planning one, self-published if needs be) it will sit immediately after the original poem, which is entitled ‘Fish 1’.

Fish 2

Scorn goldfish tanks, come to the brine
and plunge to fathoms far below
the shallow range of lure and line,
find wonders where the sun can’t go.

Take angler fish, with glowing bait:
the smaller male swims to a mate,
his teeth latch on, all’s going great
as he starts to assimilate.

Skin fuses, both eyes drop away
and all his organs are absorbed,
except, of course, his testes stay.
The female swims on undisturbed.

We’ll leave the male a parasite
and drift back slowly to the light.

© Huw Evans 2019

Packet Ninja

This poem has taken me nearly ten years to write, because it is a found poem: each line is a safety warning taken from the operating instructions to an object. I collected the warnings as I came across them, then arranged them to make what might be a set of instructions for a ninja on an assassination mission. The original items are listed underneath the poem.

Packet Ninja

Keep hidden and away from children.
Keep out of the reach and sight of children.
Keep away from eyes and ears.

Do not work near edge of bed.
Do not cover breathing hole.
Avoid giving shock.

Strike softly away from body.
Keep clear of unpropped body.
Rattle noise is normal.

©Huw Evans 2019

(Sources: pills, Bazooka gel, party poppers, lorry, hard drive, hard drive, matches, van, hard drive)

We are the Little Birds of France

At almost every meal eaten outdoors in France, whether a rough snack outside a tent, or lunch at one of the restaurants in the Tuileries Gardens, there are little birds darting in and out to snatch fragments of food. I felt they deserved a poem, so I wrote one, in English. Then I thought they should be commemorated in something nearer to French. Finally, I gave them a full French version – which does not scan.

We are the Little Birds of France

We are the little birds of France
Each luncheon time we do our dance
We table dive without regret
To snatch a fragment of baguette.

                           ***

Nous sommes les petit birds de France
Chaque déjeuner nous do our danse
Nous dive sous table sans regret
To snatch un morceau de baguette.

***

Nous sommes les petits oiseaux de France
Chaque déjeuner nous faisons notre danse
Nous plongeons à table sans regret
Pour prendre un fragment de baguette

© Huw Evans 2019

The Beetle – a Poem for Two People

Ah, the little beetles and flying insects that drift around us in the summer and occasionally land on us. For some people that’s not a problem, a gentle brush off is all that is required. For others, it becomes a major life event.

(And apologies for the ‘boldness’ of one of the speakers – I don’t have the time to wrestle the wordpress blockquote out of its default italics: also, there are no tabs. Grr.)

The Beetle – a Poem for Two People

I’ve got a beetle up my arm.

It isn’t doing any harm.

That’s what you say, but you don’t know
how fast these little beetles go,
or where they run, or what they eat
or that their little beetle feet
when magnified are horrid claws.
Scaled up they’re like a lion’s paws.
And that’s what’s loose inside my shirt.
Those massive claws are bound to hurt.

Hold still, I’ll try to get it out.

Hold still?!

                  It doesn’t help to shout.

I’m saying nothing of the jaws;
the teeth are much worse than the claws.
And mandibles, he’s got those too,
enormous pincers set to chew
a great gash through my lovely skin
then burrow down and deeper in
to suck my blood and gnaw my brain.
Don’t laugh, I think I feel the pain.
And that’s what’s loose inside my shirt.
Get on with it, it’s going to hurt.

It’s just a beetle, nothing more.
Oh please! Stop rolling on the floor.

It’s coming for me, I can tell,
please tell the family I died well.

Hold still. And yes, I’ve got the beast.

Ah, just before it had its feast.
How big is it, this brutal thing?
Ten centimetres, wing to wing?

Ten millimetres.

                               They’re the worst.

A good job that I got there first.

You saved my life.

                                I know, I know.

Now, where’s the beast?

                                          I let it go.

You set the evil monster loose?

A tiny beetle. What’s the use?
I think that you should go inside,
away from nature, go on, hide.

© Huw Evans 2019

The Cliffs of Machu Pichu

I have never been to the Inca citadel of Machu Pichu, and very likely never will, but, by the power of  imagination, I have realised this inconsequential poem about the wild life of the area, rather than focusing on the ‘heaps of rubble’ some of those dear to me would see.

And my apologies to those who might have been wanting to learn about this very important Inca site.

The Cliffs of Machu Pichu

The cliffs of Machu Pichu
are home to many fowl:
the eagle and the robin,
the condor and the owl.

The eagle nests the highest
on vaunting spires of stone.
It builds its nest from yoghurt,
balloons and bits of bone.

The robin’s nest is lowest,
it’s very scared of heights.
It won’t go out at night time
for fear of sudden frights.

The condor lives on ledges
precarious and thin,
it only gets to nesting
when breeding times begin.

The owl squats in the hollows
that form in rotten trees
and that is where it picked up
a feathery disease.

The eagle sees the robin
and dives to have a snack,
but then the condor stops it
by giving it a smack.

The eagle gets all huffy
and sulks upon its nest,
which gives the frightened robin
a chance to have a rest.

The owl ignores the robin
and thinks that it’s absurd
for all that gorgeous plumage
to cover one small bird.

The robin loves the condor
and finds it little treats,
like buns left by the tourists,
all packed with tangy meats.

The owl resents the condor;
the way that it can glide
for hours and hours on thermals
its wings spread out so wide.

The condor isn’t bothered
by all the owl’s disdain,
it spins above the ruins
come sunshine or come rain.

The owl puffs up the eagle
with flattery and lies
so gets to eat the tidbits
that tumble from the skies.

The cliffs of Machu Pichu
are home to many fowl:
the eagle and the robin,
the condor and the owl.

© Huw Evans 2019

The Misfortunes of Otters

Recently someone tweeted a definition they had seen for the German word schadenfreude which contained a slight but wonderful misprint. The word was mangled to mean ‘laughing at the misfortunes of otters’. To think a language might have a whole word dedicated to such a rare phenomenon. (Of course, German doesn’t, the original definition should have read ’others’). That set me thinking.

And to the person who spotted and tweeted the misprint, thank you. This poem is dedicated to you.

The Misfortunes of Otters

Misfortune comes to creatures large and small –
provoking both the elephant and vole,
but otters are most sensitive of all:

a hint of mocking in a magpie’s call
will drive the creature blushing to its hole.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,

yet the ocelot that fluffs its mating call
will shrug and throw itself back in the rôle.
But otters are most sensitive of all,

they’ll curl into a furry, quivering ball,
tormented by a misjudged forward roll.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,

the shark that spots a sailor’s leg to maul
then misses it, just spins back to its goal.
But otters are most sensitive of all,

don’t tease one if you see it take a fall,
please think of what is happening in its soul.
Misfortune comes to creatures large and small,
but otters are most sensitive of all.

© Huw Evans 2019