Lazarus

My
name
crumbles
from my mouth,
a piece of coral.

You might think I’m smiling but it’s rictus –
I’m as terrified of you
as you are of me.

If you could see
into my spine,
you’d find it’s hollow,
encased in an armoury of external teeth –
all the better to eat –

and my eyes are even bigger than my mouth –
all the better to see.

I ride currents and drifts and, because of my plethora of fins,
in spite of my monstrosity,
my ancient body
and my minuscule
fatty brain,
I am an aquatic gymnast.

Watch me stand on my head
and swim on my back!

Then you pull me,
raised from extinction,
from your net.

A piece of coral
crumbles from
my mouth,
my name:

Coelacanth.

Kim M. Russell, 31st August 2020

My response to earthweal weekly challenge: EVOLU-SONGS, also linked to dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night

Brendan says that he has been thinking about evolution: how life found its way on Earth, the code which governs its flourishing, how life came back after near-eradication after asteroid strikes or runaway climate change. He says that he also thought about the missteps along the way and how we carry humanity’s earlier departures like exist signs along the road which brought us here, and the grand sweep of geologic time and life’s miniscule occupation in it.

For this week’s challenge, we are considering evolution. I’m sharing a poem I wrote in 2017. I’ve submitted it several times to competitions and publications, so I’ve not shared it on the Internet previously.

52 thoughts on “Lazarus

  1. This is soaked in an abyss of time — radiates it darkly and divinely. What do we know of the living and who’s dead? And what of these ghosts? (I think of the recent story about a singing wild dog that hadn’t been seen in 50 years and was just found again, on the far side of some forgotten island. And to speak its name is to spit coral from one’s mouth — Amen. – Brendan

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “My
    name
    crumbles
    from my mouth,
    a piece of coral.”

    What an introduction to this fantastic fish – once thought extinct

    [years ago there was a board game called ‘Zoo quest’ associated with David Attenborough and Coelacanth was the highest scoring animal!]

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe it was a David Attenborough programme that first brought the Coelacanth to my attention, Laura. The ocean is so vast, there have to be more creatures down there that we know nothing about or believed to be extinct. And then there’s Nessie…

      Like

  3. Wow, the imageries present here in this piece are unique! It intrigues me greatly, especially this:

    “If you could see
    into my spine,
    you’d find it’s hollow,
    encased in an armoury of external teeth –
    all the better to eat –”

    And I was really expecting this to end like: “to eat you with” especially with the Coelacanths looking absolutely terrifying. Hahaha. You capture them well in this poem with very vivid details. Wonderful poem, yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim, can this be considered a shape poem? Looking at it sideways, it looks like Lazarus. It’s a fascinating being. Happy some are still alive. The lake sturgeons evoke that same fascination for me. Wonderful poem honoring a sea-dwelling mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I did aim for a shape poem, Lisa, and I’m so glad you noticed! There are so many living things on this planet that we don’t know about and so many fossils of creatures that once existed that we will never know all of them. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy David Attenborough’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Kim. As a kid I used to *love* watching Jacques Cousteau as he shared so much of the underwater kingdom with the viewers. I’ve seen some of David Attenborough’s shows. Nature is always full of wonder.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This poem is full of vivid imagery straight out of the primordial soup: it makes me hope we won’t be the next ones facing extinction; and if we are, will we be pulled from the brink like the coelacanth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It blew my mind just to think how long the coelacanth has been on this planet – our time is only a fraction and we’ve already done so much damage. It’s up to Mother Nature whether she will pull us from the brink.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is great, Kim. You had me right at the title, Lazarus, he who returned from the dead. And your description of the coelacanth is so packed with imagery and meaning. The eyes, better to see, and mouth, etc. make us think of the frightening fairy tale monster, but also of the process of evolving this fish went through. So well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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