A very hagfishy Valentine’s Day

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

hagfish 1

For Valentine’s Day, my love designed and knitted me an Atlantic hagfish, A.K.A. slime eel — Myxine glutinosa. Apparently, she was the first on Ravelry to do so. While to the uninitiated this might seem like a less than subtle suggestion that I am a slime-ball and a bottom-feeder, in fact it was a highly romantic gesture, a response to my “Ten Simple Songs” (8-9, if you’re in a hurry). I was initially going to hold off posting that poem until Valentine’s Day, but then I thought, what if she doesn’t like it? Perhaps slime eel references don’t belong in a serious love poem. I guess I needn’t have worried.

hagfish 2

Hagfish purposely tie themselves in knots to remove excess mucus. Thankfully, this plush, knitted hagfish is not mucilaginous in the slightest. (See additional photos on the project page at Ravelry.)

I don’t own many works of art, and none that please me quite so much as this. Folks, don’t ever let anyone tell you that poetry doesn’t pay! Also, heed the wise words of Robert Fulghum (often wrongfully attributed to Dr. Seuss):

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.
Robert Fulghum, True Love

I’m kind of a big deal on the web

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Poets take note! There’s another critter out there even more adept than we are at hiding behind an enormous effigy of itself made entirely of garbage:

New Species of ‘Decoy’ Spider Likely Discovered At Tambopata Research Center

From afar, it appears to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along the side of the trail. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the Amazon. As you approach, the spider starts to wobble quickly forward and back, letting you know this spider is, in fact, alive.

Step in even closer and things start to get weird— that spider form you were looking at is actually made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris, and dead insects. The confusion sets in. How can something be constructed to look like a spider, how is it moving, and what kind of creature made this!?

It turns out the master designer behind this somewhat creepy form is in fact a tiny spider, only about 5mm in body length, that is hiding behind or above that false, bigger spider made up of debris.

The Legend of the Cosmic Hen

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 19 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Before there was a cosmic egg, there was a cosmic hen. Even in the absence of gravity, she couldn’t stay airborne.


She was alone. When her feet got frost-bitten & began to bleed, she had to cannibalize herself.


It was her need to bathe that gave rise to the galaxies. Bright dust spun out from hen-shaped holes.


Laying left her slightly crazed. To this day, hens stand over their newly laid eggs & declare their readiness to buck, buck — buck all! Only then do they settle, croon & brood.


Free range has its limits. For billions of years she waited in the middle of nowhere, listening for a car, for a cart — for anything on wheels to come along so she could race in front of it, wings outspread, making the first cross.

The Viking Buddha

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 18 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


Ornament from a bucket found in the Oseberg mound grave in the county of Vestfold, Norway.
brass ornament found with the Oseberg ship burial

Four hammers of Thor,
nested just so, form
a Buddhist swastika with feet.
Steering by the sun,
we run in circles.

A gaze trained to focus
on a pitching horizon
turns to an inward shore.
Breathe like a rower,
in time with the waves.

Legs fold into a knot:
braided serpents.
The fierce brow unknits.
Only the scowl still hints
at the strength of his vow.
The truest viking leaves
everything behind.

Image from Saamiblog, via the Wikipedia Commons. Cf. the Helgö Buddha.