Flies and Nettles


The purpose of nettles is to make more nettles,
green, bitter, sharply hairy and introverted,
and they in turn shall make yet more nettles,
and so on, until the land is nettle-cloaked.

From a space station it might look like green baize.

Ditto for flies; the air will be full of flies;
and the green baize will not be seen by the astronauts
because of all the flies that are in between.

And mankind will live between the flies and nettles.

When men have poisoned the nettles and the flies,
the granular skin of the earth will be visible,
but not for long, because the people will breed
and encrust the land like a swarm of locusts.

Then people crowded upon demented people
will succumb to their poisons, and once again
the earth will be brown and bare, or nearly so ?
for the torpid roots will be stirring themselves
and flies will crawl on stiff legs out of their silos.

Soon the land will again be coated in nettles,
stinging the flesh that strokes them, and all the air
will vibrate to the incessant humming of the flies.

from The Brown Parrots of Providencia (Faber & Faber, 1993), © Fergus Allen 1993, used by permission of the author.

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