Image courtesy of Earthworm Society of Britain. E: info@earthwormsoc.org.uk

EARTHWORMS

Pink entrails of the earth rise,
half-drowned,
all-blind and writhing.
How unthinking 
and stupid these no-brained 
are!
Useless and flaccid 
after rain clogs
their soil-bed
and the scatter to the paths
to be baked by the sun,
eaten by birds 
and laughed at by big mouths above pounding feet
fed by the 1,750,000 other pink gyrators
which churn each fertile acre.


There are two language misuses that bother me a great deal. One is excessive hyperbole; the other is un-nuanced comparison in analogy, simile or metaphor. This poem is a response to equating a group of unfocussed people with ‘dumb, blind’ (and by suggestion useless) earthworms.

From my father I learnt that even the smallest, seemingly insignificant creatures have their place in the world. Earthworms in particular are supremely important and spectacular beings. While researching for this poem, I discovered that there are thousands of different earthworm species. The worms are of different colours and lengths. Some live in leaf litter rather than the soil, and in rare cases they even live in tree branches.

It is supremely anthropocentric to forget the workings that occur beneath our feet. Beneath a metre-squared of garden lawn, 20 to 40 earthworms will be at work. Even more humbling is that for every acre of fertile farmland, there are 1,750,000 earthworms working their way through the soil.

My Dad was fond of reminding me, “Ants know as much as they need to know to be ants.” Similarly, earthworms know and do as much as is required to be earthworms. They aerate the soil. They leave their casts to nourish the soil. Their bodies feed birds and other creatures. In amazing hermaphroditic wonder, they make more earthworms. What perfection!

Earthworms
move as they digest, digest as they move:
one intertwined perfected motion.
If our lives were so simple,
imagine how efficient we’d be.

By all means, one may label a group of people distracted and confused, but to liken them to earthworms is a misplaced simile that this poet cannot accept.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill 
Facebook: BeadedQuill 
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightnes:  Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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