March 2023

Back to Issue 13


By Carl Walsh

after Carolus Linnaeus’ Systema Naturæ (Regnum Animale)

i.     Quadrupedia revised into mammalia

                              lactiferous teats enough to bring us to all fours

                              simian cousins chatter at my troglodytic moments

                              as if I’ve fallen from tree-swinging heights

                              scared beneath darkling shade 

                              of spectral bats

ii.     Aves               or is it a bird? a kite gyres on thermals unseen – 

                              the loons /the white-bellied drongo

                              the scarlet-backed flowerpecker parroting my every word 

                              nestling in finery of magpies

                              egg tooth chipping fault-lines across calcareous shell

                              between reality & imagination

                              I slip between 

iii.    Amphibia       into watery depths

                              the coldness of my blood /my listlessness 

                              I’ll not sweat this nest of vipers

                              toadying at heels of serpent gods

                              the slowworm of regret

                              where even fire salamander flames & is gone

                              in crocodilian splendour

                              turning turtle to splash 

iv.     Pisces           among fishes

                              imbricate scales like red rooves of villas

                              reflect sunlight & splay across rivers

                              a quick rise from salmon

                              piking at sight of European weatherfish

                              carping or kicking up a ballyhoo with mullet 

                              under these ripples & waves 

                              we’ll flounder at mercy of cutlassfishes

                              wild gangs of electric knifefishes

                              (the misclassified sharks & anglerfish that decry

                              the fence-sitting amphibians)

                              !it’s all cod! 

                              all nine-spine stickleback

                              I’ll perch

v.     Insecta           mosquito on your skin sucking warmth of blood

                              while scarab beetle rolls dung-like sun

                              through blue depth of sky

                              tumbling flower beetles break their necks 

                              to hear quipping of thrips or drum of cicadas

                              or watch stridulation of crickets

                              scraping limbs together

                              I’ll not bore you with termites 

                              or lousy tales of thick-headed flies or scorpions 

                              or lobster-back bends of surprise crabs

                              until at last

vi.     Vermes          I worm my way

                              among shipworms & hagfishes /terrestrial slugs

                              unclad nudibranchs from netherworld

                              furious in non-existence 

                              to leech spirit from northern-souled reindeer


Paradoxa               from the suspect

                              the contradictory /the seven-headed hydra

                              its awful headache inducing sway

                              I weasel my way among unicorns

                              the sheep-fruiting vegetable lamb of Tartary

                              the driftwood-born barnacle geese

                              the Jenny Haniver-ed dragons

                              the phoenix ashen which flames like sunset

                              (having never happened upon a platypus) 

                              to unfairly disbelieve the horological tick of death watch beetle

                              & end 

                              in ever-decreasing saw-toothed spiral

                              of antelope horn.