Finally, the last instalment in my series of three poems for the Zoo show, again accompanied by beautiful illustrations done by Dushan Milic. Without any further ado, the star-nosed mole.
You are a mole. Star-nosed.
I label you in Latin,
since I don’t know what you call yourself.
Mitch or Starlee? Madame Moleton of Molesworth? Simply, self?
Perhaps you’re unnamed,
distinguished only by dig-pattern,
nasal probe arrangement.
Or maybe not differentiated at all,
anonymous in the moley dark.
I’ve only just learned how tiny you are.
Do you understand it?
You are so much smaller than all the BBC animations featuring moles
(and there are many!) would have us believe.
Sometimes only centimetres, end to end.
I can’t imagine.
I imagine you. Can you imagine that?
Your nose is miraculous, terrifying,
so many nerve endings feeling around in an unfeeling word,
four handfuls plus two, naked fingertips blindly grubbing,
twenty-five thousand sensations at once.
I shudder to think of myself so exposed.
If men were moles, there would be protection,
nasal awareness laws: nose means no,
velvet nose veils and erotic nose-fondling parlours.
If men were moles, channels would be carved through dirt by machines.
Lights would be dimmed.
One would be judged by the denseness of one’s coat,
not by the content of one’s character.
The exchange value of invertebrates would increase exponentially.
You labour, you moles.
A labour of moles
Sussing out your wormy prey,
stunning it with toxic saliva.
Stockpiling thousands of stupefied worms
in your underground larders, but for what?
A rainy day?
The coming vermicide?
Or simply to fight the boredom?
Do you relax, chill out? Does a Cimmerian take a load off, unwind?
Or must you move until depleted, softly snoring in some unmarked shaft?
What kind of circadian circuit do you follow through endless darkness?
Working at the speed of neurons, you are expert in snap decisions.
Your nose-fingers probe, judge, determine comestibility
and in less than a second, you have spit or swallowed.
If men were moles obesity would bloom to dystopian proportions.
I’ve seen your stellar nose only in pictures,
and yet, I imagine you there, snuffling along the waterline.
I place a worm near a hole in the embankment,
convinced you must exist.
Are you there in the shadows, waiting for my smell to pass?
I imagine you sauntering out in necktie and tails,
fork in hand,
ready for dinner.