Skip to main content

The Unexpected


I like September.


It's not just that it feels as though the effort of keeping summer going can be given up, almost with a sense of relief.


No, it's more than that - here's a new season, fresh in its own special way.


As September contains a quarter day (itself relating to the solstice) I read that it was a time when people were hired, land was exchanged and debts paid.


So various things start now, like the academic year, making it a month for new beginnings - 
although it draws heavily on recent growth, sometimes hardly noticed.

And then there's all the fruit, of course, only too often celebrated poetically...

But much more interesting are the arrivals that startle.

I mean the fungi - extraordinary things which literally spring up overnight.

Not things though - they're living plants.  
No, not plants - organisms - but that doesn't sound right.
As for the proper term 'fruiting body' - well, that suggests something quite different.  They are worlds away from all those apples, pears, plums, sloes, hips, haws and drupes.

These may be fruits of a kind, but it's now thought that, while they're placed in a kingdom of their own (I love the use of kingdoms in this context) genetically they're closer to the animal than the vegetable kingdom.

Strange growths indeed, which should not be unexpected, yet they surprise. 

Unexpected at first glance, only to become more surprising, the closer they're looked at.
They may seem like other things, yet they're not really like them...
curiouser and curiouser...



Field Mushroom

Unexpected - this is no plant
but machinery made from flesh
discarded in the grass.
Here’s an air intake from a jet
with several soft fins crumpled.
I turn it over in my hands to see
a scabby disc, rust flakes peeling,
scorched, as if exposed to radiation
one flattened breast excised complete
with areola.  I rotate it
heavy on its shaft and flick
the gills which never breathed.

Unexpected – here is life –
seething in the flesh
coggy maggots twist and turn –
little wheels inside an engine
working in their darkness
to transform flesh, recycle scrap,
digest the meat and make new growth –
unseen soaring spores pour forth
out of this rotting fruiting body –
not plant, machine, nor breast, or fish
but mushroom, which you might expect
I could have picked and eaten.




.

















Richard Westcott, Southernhay, North Street, South Molton, EX36 3AN


Comments

  1. i can smell it. thanks. and what about the Kombuchan kind?!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music contin…

Viral Information

Viral Information




Virus - a word much heard not just at this time of year ('there's a lot of them about') but one that's spilled quasi-metaphorically into other non-biological areas, you might say succeeding virulently... gone viral?

 But that's what viruses do, and do very well.
Fulfilling only some of the criteria for qualifying for life status, here are strange creatures indeed, not that that's the right word at all - not organism, more construction, set of instructions or even just a programme.  So the use of the word in computer malfunction is hardly metaphorical...
Approaching this extraordinary - but so frequently encountered, so in a way not extraordinary at all -  thing (I find myself reduced to using this rather weak word) that may be represented in (admittedly astronomically colossal) sequences of numbers, with words - all that poetry possesses, however they may be presented - poses problems. 
So I thought I'd turn to a different sort of poetry: …