Dung Beetles Navigate by Starlight*

I track my treasure home on star beams, hide
my finds in caverns, steer them clean away,
before I’m stranded in the clueless day
with all my musky gleanings dull and dried.
Straightness is all. The constellations guide
my angled legs. The facets of each eye
lock on to glimmers. Sensed how? Who can say?
The system works for me. I’m satisfied.

I know those lines of light shine down for me,
the dung deposited on dewy ground
a providence. Through moonless dark I see
in multiple dimensions beacons round,
and every blessed night miraculously
Precipitates new turds for me to find.

*Dacke, M et al., 2012. Dung beetles use the Milky Way for orientation. Current Biology.

From Norwich Writers’ Circle Open Poetry Competition 2013 Anthology, poems selected by George Szirtes


Oxford Canal

You board at Lower Heyford
don’t quite get to Banbury.
There and back takes a whole week-end.
You won’t mind, you’ll soon abandon timetables and goals,
route planners, maps, clocks and choices
to the engine’s steady underwater pulse
and life between parallel lines.

You move on a lane of water
round hillsides at the pace of a horse walking
float under roads, through the O
of a tunnel and its upside-down twin
lift the balanced bridges, open and close locks, enjoy
the real and simple physics of it all

and when you stop and moor, stepping out
into damp dawns, you encounter empty fields, cow-parsley
or at midnight, glow-worms in the long grass at Aynho.


Habitat Loss


Was it lost, or never found,
the thousand-flowered tapestry
the public good, the common ground?

The bay where herring queens were crowned
the quiet sky, the fruitful sea
was it lost, or never found?

Small city squares to stroll around,
accidental, open, free
a public good, a common ground.

Translucence of a glass-dark pond
amphibian diversity
was it lost, or just not found?

A wood where chanterelles abound
that’s not some shooter’s property,
a public good, a common ground.

A stranger welcomed to the round
untallied generosity
was it lost, or never found
the public good, the common ground?