Primal Testament

Original Text: 

Ian Lancashire, <i>Primal Testament</i> (Niagara Falls: Seraphim Editions, 2016): 104-06.

1Perfected predator, ranging under
2sediment stagnating in a roadside
3drainage ditch or rooting in the mire
4of embedded shingles of a river
5that idles downwards to a redding tide,
6breathes oxygen exhaled by algal blooms
7during photosynthesis as they bask
8in nitrogen and phosphorus sewage
9that flows, unstaunched, into neritic-zone
10life-teeming estuarine turbulence
11along the Susquehanna bed, collapsed
12when a cataract of northern waters
13broke through the glaciers and made the bay
14of Chesapeake, whose inland shallows rest
15atop the continental shelf, sea-gate
16to the black and alien abyssal plain.
17I'm dugesia tigrina,
18mottled triclad, slippery fellow,
19shaking my tri-angled head's two
20pointy auricles side to side,
21for sensing where is what to eat,
22training twin ocelli above
23to shun the light for safety's sake,
24unblinking sensors (fixed on you)
25of a miniscule cross-eyed schmoo
26invertebrate that domiciles
27the sterile petri dish filled with
28a pure spring-water medium --
29take care of your planaria --
30tap water doesn't suit our taste,
31its chlorine suffocates and kills --
32and flatworms are adorable
33additions to the household gods
34once your class has quite done with us.
35Its ciliated epithelia,
36seeping mucus to lubricate its glide,
37catch prey as sticky-tape does tired flies
38until a tubal throat from under-mouth
39pokes out to suck on little vertebrates,
40mosquito larvae, and baby flatworms,
41undigested debris of which vacate
42the handy selfsame hole as excrement.
43I never have to die of age,
44tissue loss, or organ failure,
45as an experiment will show:
46slip me onto a dish of ice
47and once I'm lethargic and numbed,
48slice me two times with a scalpel,
49lengthwise first, from head to tailpiece,
50and next across the ocelli,
51and pour the quarter mini-me’s
52back in the petri dish before
53we freeze, recording how we squirm
54and stretch – two weeks at most should do –
55until we clone the one we were
56four times, eight auricles and eyes,
57four heads and nether openings
58to eat-excrete, and gonopores
59to traffic eggs and semen with.
60But the scissored worm lies foundering, nerves
61afire, prone in a dish for appetites
62of an envious intelligencer
63mortified by unfitness to outlast
64a life that couldn't even fossilize
65yet claims a phylum, Platyhelminthes,
66pre-Cambrian, defying necrosis
67with neoblasts so systematically
68plenipotent they grow whatever cells
69the fissionable worm and its sickled
70brood might need, and in the sequence governed
71by its embryogenetic flowchart:
72they're beneath-the-killer's-knife immortal.
Publication Start Year: 
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Special Copyright: 

"Planarian" (c) Ian Lancashire. Printed gratis, and specifically for Representative Poetry Online, with permission of the author. As published in Primal Testament (Niagara Falls: Seraphim Editions, 2016). Any other use, including reproduction for any purposes, educational or otherwise, will require explicit written permission from Ian Lancashire.