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Worm of Destiny

Worm of Destiny

There must have been a kind of worm with legs
no more than bulges, pivoting along
the sea bed and there must have been a slide
of gravel or a stranding in a pool,
dividing one worm nation into two.

In time, their limbs and manners then diverged
(the ways of life of nations often do)
but one worm was the worm of destiny,
which grew, invented mandibles and joints,
became the spider, crab and honeybee,
and ruled the planet in a million ways;
its sister set her heart on slumming it
with microbes, hiding in the worlds between
soil particles and in the shade of moss,
and rarely used the special gift she had
of drying herself up just like a seed,
enduring radiation, cold and heat.

The Earth, somebody said, is a cassette,
a C600 million, so rewind,
you’ll hear a different song play every time
as different creatures stomp around the world,
so even fossils are not set in stone,
there is no worm of destiny, just worms
of lottery and when I’ve sat and drawn
the losers in my notebook then I’ve seen
the ghosts of everything that might have been.

I’ve seen the triumph of the tardigrades,
acquiring lungs, emerging from the swamp,
to glide on membranes, taut between eight legs,
their stylets piercing lizards with a shriek
and drinking out the destiny. I’ve watched
them lumbering and roaring on the steppes,
surviving fire and ice and meteorites.
I’ve seen their clever claws make a stone axe
and rehydration systems of brass pipes
and microchips to end their hibernations,
the day their starships reach their destinations.

Will Holloway