The budding poet soon suspects
The pointlessness of: Solve for x
The budding poet soon suspects
The pointlessness of: Solve for x
We sprang from a primordial soup
Of RNA and cosmic goop
We breathed through gills and swam in schools
Among the depths and rocky pools
Bedazzling, streamlined, clad in scales
Propelled by tails with fins for sails.
Until one day, so goes the lore
We cast a fishy eye to shore
And surfed the tide across the sand
To where the water meets the land.
Not ones to walk, we lacked technique
All thanks to our unique physique
But in the end we found our feet
Soon after, gills were obsolete.
Yet, Evolution is perverse
And sometimes throws it in reverse…
For, now we’ve waterparks with slides
We snorkel, sail and scuba dive
We swim with dolphins, live on boats
And teach our small fry how to float.
Tots splash in puddles with delight
While summer’s one long water fight
Still, others love the touch of rain
But when asked Why? they can’t explain.
We left a world now out of reach
The day we clambered up that beach
The price of such a compromise?
This constant need to moisturize.
Explorers who first reached the Nile
Soon came upon a crocodile
Whose improprieties lay steeped in lore.
The wily reptile would beguile
An out-of-towner with a smile
Belying a betrayal at its core.
Dear friend, I wish to welcome you!
How was the road from Timbuktu?
Come near that I may hear what news you bear…
In truth, the beast had had its fill
Of horns and hooves and ibis bills
And thus, resolved to seek more tender fare.
The wayfarer, now curious
Despite all signs injurious
Would take the bait, not wishing to be rude
Recounting tales of spitting snakes
Of feuding sheikhs and salted lakes
And bartering with Bedouins for food.
Then we must feast! the creature cried
If you will let me be your guide
We’ll cross to where the spoils are most exotic.
It’s just offshore, a pleasant ride
Do climb aboard and sit astride!
And voyage with me into the aquatic.
To eat one friend is impolite
To eat two speaks to appetite
To eat them all may lead to the odd question.
But be it large or small amounts
To some it’s what’s inside that counts
A thought our croc is currently digesting.
In Physics, nothingness has weight
Which leads to some disquiet
Among the more dense who debate:
So, why then do we diet?
Old King Henry had six wives
Whose days were full of dread
For most of them led tragic lives
Then often wound up dead.
Catherine of Aragon
To whom he first proposed
Could not produce a princely son
So he said Adios!
Then Anne Boleyn, closer to home
Demanded that they wed
So Henry cut off ties with Rome
And then cut off her head.
Poor Jane Seymour was the one
Who finally played her part
When she, at last, produced a son
But died, which broke his heart.
Anne of Cleves, the next one booked
Was regal, young and wealthy
The problem was she didn’t look
Quite like her royal selfie.
Catherine Howard, it was said
No man had ever dated
But rumours spread after they’d wed
So was decapitated.
Catherine Parr, a lively sort
Who wielded her own power
Helped organise his kids and court
Once she’d escaped The Tower.
All Henry wanted was a son
A prince whom he could teach
To rule his people when he’d gone
But this was out of reach.
The irony which overwhelms
This patriarchal scene?
He gave to England and its realms
Perhaps their greatest queen
Because Young Bess, put to the test
Excelled in her employ
And showed the world it takes a girl
To do it like a boy.
On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone
Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone
Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not
Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot
Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet
I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot
Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long
Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?
Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave
Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?
I come into my garden for the colours and the light
A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.
Beware the Ides! foretells the fall
Of he who rose to conquer Gaul
And lands still further from his home
This warrior, this son of Rome.
On his return to claim his right
A haruspex with second sight
Met Caesar by the Senate arch
To warn him of the Ides of March.
They’d killed an ox and found no spleen
An omen that could only mean
The Consul should fear for his life
As did, Calpurnia, his wife.
But Caesar didn’t fear the gods
For he had overcome the odds
To overshadow mortal men
And take his seat in Rome again.
So came the day, but nothing passed
Until the Senators amassed
Fulfilling what was prophesied
Thus, on the fifteenth, Caesar died.
Of every haruspex, it’s said
They earn their living from the dead
And though they claim the role of seer
It’s often what we overhear
When greeting guests in Tokyo
The custom is to bow down low
While in Tibet both old and young
Say hi by sticking out their tongue.
In France it’s chic to peck the cheek
And friends will clap in Mozambique
Though Greenlanders will sniff your face
Before they help you with your case.
Most Eskimos rub nose to nose
In India they touch your toes
And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs
Of visitors considered chums.
Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:
I’m pleased that you dropped by today!
And bless those friends who always know
The sign for when it’s time to go…
At Cana, water turned to wine
Delighting all the guests
And showed the world The Great Divine
Considers all requests.
Although some question Was it prayer?
Or did a son discover
The force behind a mother’s glare
Is unlike any other?
Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.
One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.
“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.
“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”
Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?
“I give Calliope her feed.”
Interviewer: Her what?
“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?
“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”
Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?
“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”
[viewers stopped eating at this point]
Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.
“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”
It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.
Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?
“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.
Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?
“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”
Interviewer: I beg your pardon?
“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.
Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?
“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”
Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?
Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.
“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.
Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?
“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”
Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?
“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”
Interviewer: Please, do.
“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”