Planet Earth

Planet Earth: A Short Geological Excursion through the British Isles 

Fifty poems in free verse that take the reader through the wider aspects of the geology underlying
the United Kingdom. Free pdf book.

The English Downlands: Chalk

It may be this, above all, which so eludes us:
a shoreline forever receding, at last to merge
with a flat land, a clean land, as the coccoliths
rained down in their millions to bedded Chalk.

Above it the wind, on the high Downland ways,
flattens the grass or sets the harebell nodding,
as though it would breathe through the innocence
of the airy, thin skeletons that form this rock.

Yet here it all ended, the great mass-extinction
of the Mesozoic in this crumbly almost nothing.
Occasionally a plesiosaur is found but mostly
it's a shark's tooth, a coral, an echinoderm.

So the asteroid winter, whatever it was,
is hardly recorded, and the dinosaurs
drifting, asphyxiated, would have dissolved
just as they were into this new beginning.

Perhaps it's this that we encounter at Eastbourne
where the white cliffs fall into the summer sea:
an abrupt clean ending, and a placenta severed
from a continuum of childhood we have lost.

The Thames Valley: Mammoths

Swollen as they are and part of earth-time, the tusks,
femurs and molars — huddled together in fissures,
in long loams, in gravels well-pummelled — canticles
of enamel moving with the rivers that brought them,

grinding south and south, with the ice-blocks floating:
the auroras of winter canopied in their small brains,
the husks no doubt also of summer in their soft hides,
only we cannot see them, all that hugeness gone

greedily but without stain into the heavy tills —
the Gipping, the Chiltern, the Lowestoft drift:
tough, glutinous blanketings that the great bones
work in and founder, and are never released from.

For imponderably they are of this time and this place,
uncomfortable or diminishing as that may be,
in foundations, in parks, sites of industrial buildings:
square-faced and nondescript, rigorously planned.

As such these pantechnicons of the flood,
ruminating and then melting into the tundra,
may almost be part of our own plots of lives,
local as the weather in this late warm spell.