I've been writing a poem about barnacles today. It was 'homework' from the course I am doing - to begin a poem in the 'voice' of any animal, with a variation of these lines from 'The Cows on Killing Day' by Les Murray -
'All me are standing on feed. The sky is shining.'

If I had to come up with a favourite poetry collection, Les Murray's Translations from the Natural World would probably be it. He manages to get inside the mind of a creature, using a paradoxical mixture of observational truth and artifice/art (language). His best poems make the animal hyper-real.
For me, there are few others poets who can work this magic of convicingly, and often beautifully, inhabiting the mind of the non-human 'other' - Liz Berry, Alice Oswald and Ted Hughes (Wodwo) come to mind - and when it works, I am transfixed. As an example, take Les Murray's Bat's Ultrasound here with its wonderful crazy music -

I also found this exquisite poem by Les Murray on his site, uncollected. I hope it's ok to share it.

Mother Sea Lion
My pup has become myself
yet I'm still present

My breasts have vanished.
My pup has grown them on herself.

Tenderly we rub whiskers.
She, me, both still present.

I plunge, dive deep in the Clench.
My blood erects. Familiar joy.

Coming out, I swim the beach-shingle.
Blood subsides. Yet I enjoy still.

Anyway, I decided to write about barnacles. Here are a few opening lines from my draft -

Us grinding on granite, all nipply
holding fist-force, rock down
giant stamp into hollow, our hollow
shaped to our foot, our home. Us waiting
for the onrush, the cold tickle up and under
us orchestra -

us shift and whip our feathers
out into the soup, goodies flowing, down our tongue
us a thousand million voices
us up for it, us take it in, the good flow. 

Well, I haven't finished but it's been fun. When I was little I made nature scrapbooks with facts about animals in an exercise book. That impulse continues with these facts I found out about barnacles today.
They are sessile suspension feeders, class cirripedia (meaning curl-footed). Their calcite shell is formed of six plates and they reach into the water with long feathery legs, known as cirri, which they beat regularly to draw in plankton (this made me think of can-can dancers) - they lie on their backs with legs upwards.
Barnacles have no heart, a single eye (the operculum) which is thought to sense the difference between light and dark (though how would we know?) - their primary sense is touch.
They pass through five 'instars'  (developmental stages) and have the longest penis to body ratio in the animal kingdom. They have also been around for aeons, are hermaphrodite and mate using spermcasting (as it sounds). They look for wettability and assess the biofilm when deciding where to live.
Well, there you go - rather random but I love facts like that, and I know next time I'm in Devon I shall look at barnacles with deeper respect.
Thanks for reading


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