Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’

Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21885659

I love raptors – wrote a poem last year about meeting a falconer (and discussing the falcons’ sometimes-deadly speed) at Warwick Castle, you can read it here.

It turns out that missile skull of theirs, as well as other of their hunting perfection, evolved in a relatively-short period of time, in relative terms. They hurtle through evolution, as well as through the air, it seems…

One day I shall don the gauntlet myself and train a falcon…one day…

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Which Winter?

A snow-dome iris, cracking through the screen…

This spell of wintry weather reminded me of a poem I wrote and put on some Christmas cards some years back – which is very wintry indeed…I think it was mainly to do with playing around with the image-paraphernalia of snow and wintry landscapes; so perhaps it’s not my most successful poem – but I hope it paints interesting pictures, at least (and follows a sonnet form too – good old ABABCDCDEFEFGG – as a technical exercise!).

Still working on my second sci-poem of the week, which I’m hoping to pop up later – but in the mean time, here is my snowy sonnet, entitled:

 

Which Winter?

 

There is a blizzard in our eyes sometimes;

A snow-dome iris, cracking through the screen.

Our cabins locked within a shaking mime

As giant flakes engulf the fish-eyed scene.

 

There is ice within our smile some days;

Sharp fragments dripping from our roof top lips.

The mountains mouth an O, the silence plays

On plastic pine tree pivots where Earth tips.

 

There is a frost across our minds some nights

Which petrifies the valleys of our thought.

It hushes colour, crushes light and slights

Our source; stills the singing of the stream.

 

Yet constant is the chorus of the flame

Each cabin’s candle dances, seeks the same.

Crinkly Fingers or, A Lonely Fisherman Sings to the Catch

The Loneliness of a (Prune-Fingered) Trawler Fisherman

This morning, I read a lovely news story by Jonathan Amos about research on crinkly fingers:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20951232

Scientists led by Dr Tom Smulders have discovered that prune-like bath-fingers may have more to them than simple ‘Ooh, look how old and wrinkled my fingers look!’ value. They have surmised that this may be an evolutionary development to aid in handling wet objects: in their experiment, this was marbles – but out in ‘nature’, this could be fruit or fish, I suppose. Or anything that is – as the saying goes – slippery when wet (is it a saying, or just something that many things are?).

The researchers asked people to carry out a marble-moving task and discovered that those who had wet hands – and consequently got prune-fingers – were more effective at the task. I suppose if those marbles were actually tiny berries, or some curious spherical animal-foodstuff (wood-lice? frog-spawn? Small wet round things all seem a bit witch-y…), then having crinkly fingers could make all the difference to a hunter-gather-omnivore species like Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The difference between eating (and being ‘selected’ by evolution) and starving (and being ‘out of the evolutionary race’). So perhaps that’s why – so the researchers say – it might be triggered involuntarily by our nervous system, instead of being simply a ‘side-effect’ of being soggy.

As I enjoyed the story so much, I thought I’d base one of this week’s sci-poems around it. Here’s a sort of ballad, or song, I suppose – written by a character I thought would have wet, crinkly, prune fingers much of the time – a fisherman. Perhaps I’ve seen too many Neutrogena adverts, or something. (And maybe as a boat-dweller, I’m drawn to such characters!)

As it went on, it evolved (as poems and humans do) into something a little sad (and silly, all at once) – but I hope you enjoy its rhyme-y mariner-y quality.

(Incidentally, while looking for some appropriate music, I found Britten’s ‘Four Sea Interludes’: I hadn’t ever listened all the way through and I recommend them – incredibly oceanic, panoramic and gorgeous).

 

A Lonely Fisherman Sings to the Catch

 

My coral fingers, these shrivelled hands

Grasping now Oceans, are slipp’d from land,

But my ship and the mesh, they can be no match:

For you are slippery when wet, dear Catch,

And your flicking tail is hard to get.

 

The crests of waves are your steely eyes,

Your limbs froth the clouds from the salty skies –

Yet my bark only ever glimpses a snatch:

For you are flicking hard to get, dear Catch,

Though my gaze and fingers are become a net.

 

These delta’d thumbs, these puckered claws –

Could they not lift you up from the swell’s great maws?

I will climb down the line, I will scratch at the deck

If you ne’er flicker in my net, dear Catch.

My candle sinks low now, my eyes stinging wet.

For your light slips away, dear, and the night’s bitter yet.

 

Oh and if you enjoyed that one, then here’s a link to another piece – Powder-Monkey – which I wrote a couple of years ago and is of a similarly seafaring and slightly-tragic (and very rhyme-centric, as a villanelle) vibe:

http://skylabstories.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/powder-monkey/

Prey or, White Metal Cave

A 3M-long scrub python is preyed on by a plane.

In my effort to write two new poems a week based on things I’ve seen in the news, here’s today’s attempt (a little more minimalist that yesterday’s asteroid effort, but rather more crafted!). It’s fairly self-explanatory – but based on the news story from the pic above and the excerpt below. Rather sad, I thought – despite it garnering plenty of attention for its ‘Snakes on a Plane’ connotations. So as is my way, I wanted to write something to present the other perspective…

“A 10ft (3m) scrub python was battling to retain its grip on the wing as a plane made its way between the Australian town of Cairns and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.”

– BBC News, 11th January 2013

Prey, or White Metal Cave

Hunger lured the hermit in

beneath the aluminium fuselage skin:

a white metal cave – a pristine space

for preying (on cloud rodents which were not there).

A head peeps out, tasting its lair,

expecting.

 

Until the monster-bird takes to the clouds and so:

earthquake-shatter hurricane-roar at two-hundred-and-fifty degrees

below. It doesn’t look down at the scrub, shrinking trees, gaping coast. A rope

cut adrift, a tube loosed from its machine, it clings;

stains kangaroo fuselage,

sprays the wing.

 

The last image it might have caught?

Touching shoulder to shoulder, head to heart,

a human, chewing, with a camera-shaped face.

Click. Looks the other way. Python

becomes prey.

Pick One Fleck – Apophis

There he is! Yes, the slightly-less blurry one with the big red arrow pointing to it. That isn’t actually there, of course.

As part of the new year’s Free-range Writer Plan, I’m going to try and write at least one or two poems each week, inspired by things I’ve picked up in the news or online (or perhaps from the Fortean Times, which I was lucky enough to receive a subscription to for Christmas).

Sometimes it’s useful to choose a subject and make yourself write a poem about it – so that’s what I’ve done with Apophis. Yet another threat to the Pale Blue Dot (as Carl Sagan called Earth) is passing us at the moment – the Apophis Asteroid, which will also pass within 22,364 miles of our planet in April 2029, giving it a 2.7% chance of whacking into us. Which would be annoying.

As ever with such astronomical phenomenon, I’m not sure how scared I should be. As scared as we should be of Nibiru/Planet X, the mysterious elliptical-orbit planet that was meant to run us off the solar-highway recently, perhaps? Well, this is real – so a dial up the Fear-o-Meter a little, certainly.

Curiously, I wrote the following poem and then looked up what else is 2.7% – and found that, “The house advantage in single zero roulette is 2.7% and for the double zero game it is 5.26%”. So there we are: my roulette ball image was not so off-the-cuff.

This is largely as it popped out of my brain, with some tweaks as I typed it out. I hope you enjoy it – and May The Odds Be Ever In Earth’s Favour.

 

Pick One Fleck

 

Just one, from the hole-

punched carbon sky and wonder

at its stats, its vital ballistics. Wonder

whether cosmic winds blow it

our way; whether Newton or some other

more modern, more menacing, model

may stack odds against Earth’s favour.

 

 

The roulette ball: Apophis

freewheels the not-so-clockwork model

above my head. No, not

above our heads: around them,

spinning like cartoon concussion,

a character impacted. The Micky Mouse

Milky-Way squeeze-and-stretches

the life-expectancy of this

billions-years-young billiard ball,

awaiting its gong for supper.

 

 

So that will be the next time:

twenty twenty-nine. Visions blurred,

screens thick with dust of fear. When

Hollywood Lears hover near

cinema seats, with light-shows projected

from our eyes and bouncing back into

the dinosaur-mind. When masses

collect on mountaintops, praying

through rehashed prisms of extra-

terrestrial life-guards and super-

natural knowledge of ancient civilisations long-

since ceased and of hyper-

sensory conspiracies of governments who

govern the stars (but who can barely keep their own

noses clean of the tar of smear).

 

When shots are littered each second

at worlds within our own, this speck of glitter in

the eye of space could make it blink

the ground into its own reflection, infinite bits,

out of being. But how lucky we would be

to see it, to be here: when there are more dead

than living than ever before. How lucky to be

the last crater-act,

the final flaming curtain,

the ones who saw

it happen.

 

And in case you have never read it, here’s Carl Sagan’s piece of writing about our Pale Blue Dot – which is a wonderful reminder of both our insignificance and, perhaps, the need for perspective when dealing with other Humans.

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot – viewable larger at the original site

The Vermin Cycle: Adventures in Self-Publishing

The Vermin Cycle eBook Cover

The Vermin Cycle eBook Cover

It’s a new year, a new Mayan era (allegedly) and very much a new start. So, being as we made it through another apocalypse: for 2013, I’ll be starting a new ‘Free-Range’ professional life and spending as much time as possible writing and getting writing ‘out there’.

So to that end: having been sitting on a completed set of poems (that people seem to like) for a while, I thought I’d venture into the unknown realms of self-publishing…

At the moment, I’ve put up a PDF of the work on http://www.issuu.com – which you have to be a member of to view (drat!):

www.issuu.com – you can search for me as SkylabStories on there.

Or if you’re already an Issuu member, you can hopefully just click through this link: http://issuu.com/skylabstories/docs/the_vermin_cycle_-_caleb_parkin

But I’ll be wrestling with the technicalities (and boy, there are technicalities) of publishing for eBook readers next week. Monday is set aside for a crash course in formatting and HTML. Hold on to your coding-hats, it could be a bumpy ride.

As soon as it’s up, I’ll commence the brazen self-publishing via any means possible. Suggestions gratefully received.