THE CLAM HAS A HUNDRED EYES

Cockles and oysters, armed with a hundred eyes
Yet eyeless, limbless, apprehending nothing:
Clinging to the cusp of the sea,
Sifting the scanty silt of meagre, tepid tides:
Dwelling, through unremembered aeons,
Beneath the throbbing North Atlantic drift:
Hugging like wan, grey welts upon
An ancient salamandine shoreline; helpless in their
Immemorial pallor: supine, listless, dreamless,
Dulled through a millennial somnolence;
Buffeted by rain, steeped in wefts of fog -

For this is the history of Earth’s life:
Futile, unaware, unculpable, insensate.
We are the new boys here, the interlopers,
Come with a reckless profusion of purpose.

Black crow of a road,
A thick, basaltic asphalt.
The rain, on wrought iron, still pelts; liquefying
Everything, making a mulch of dropped food,
Fabric, run-over pigeons, shopping receipts,
Shredded umbrellas.
Upon the High Street, in this falling Fall,
She spins amongst the puddles: arms
Outstretched, clasping to grasp the words.
Inside, the tide rises.
Cooling towards the downpour, yet unvanquished…
“I am,” she cries, “I am…so…so…”

Stephen Jackson

Autumn 2007


From around the turn of the last century come two splendid poems: ’The Kraken" by Tennyson and “Convergence of the Twain” by Thomas Hardy. I wanted to see what I could manage in the same vein.

The distinction between human beings and worms (so they told me in Biology) was that worms have two layers and we have three – needing, as we do, to carry about the sea within us. If we equate the history of the Earth to a single day, no significant life appeared before (with the oxygen-producing cyanobacilli) four in the afternoon. So let’s not flatter outselves with talk of “purposes”.


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