March 2024

Back to Issue 15

Aristotle’s Lanterns

By Jena Woodhouse


Aristotle the observer

notes that jaws of sea-urchins

resemble the pentagonal

oil-lanterns of the ancient East.


Even in large colonies,

echinoderms appear unfriendly,

structured like small fortresses,

external spines as armoury.


They have no inkling of their niche

in human lore and metaphor,

how a sage perceived the forms

of tiny lanterns in their jaws.


Imagine scores of thorny globules

lighting subaquatic rocks,

liminal on promontories,

adorning sunken argosies—