Fist to grip the slippery, twist-easing
the recalcitrant, little mastiff nosing
into crannies of blind manipulations.
The clench we reach for in tight situations.
As once, did Miss Tarbuck, a hard-nosed, roughly
middle-aged science teacher who took us briefly.
It was the period before lunch; muscle forms
in earthworms. Earthworms led to tapeworms,
and one of Miss T's field trips, bottling species
in a jungle hut (Dahomey or one of the Guineas).
Times were late colonial when tapeworms could
grow long as garden hoses. She had one, she said.
It grew, and grew snug in her intestinal miles,
shared her meals. Uncompanionably, she smiled.
Prospect of starving. No medicines. But pliers,
I had pliers. Also meat, a pair of mirrors,
and I like to think, my nerves. For a week I fasted
let the meat grow foul, O very foul indeed,
then, on a day, arranged my mirrors, the view
not, ahem! flattering (a snigger or two
though most of us were too agog) I squatted,
cheeks distended, pliers in hand, waited
O, not long, for whatever might come out.
Sure enough. A head! No, more a puckered snout!
Unpretty! I chose my moment. Then … Snap! I bagged it
(unsqueamish fellows jumped in their seats) I tugged it.
Quite a tussle. (Blokes who played in the scrum
were turning green as they imaged this grim
alimentary pull-through. Tarbuck, unphased,
stuck with the facts, if anything surprised
by our pallor.) Useful gadgets, pliers. Of course
I bottled it. Ha ha, no not the pliers, Macinnes.
And here (rummaging under her trestle)
… it is. She flourished briefly a large vessel
above her head, placed it with a bang
Inspect it as you leave. Then the school bell rang
for a lunch now suddenly more complex. We filed
past the pale, well-nourished horror, coiled
in its urinous solution, this worm, flattened
like white pantyhose loosely filled with sand;
it crammed the entire jar. And in the pocket
of her white coat we noted the pliers. Useful gadget,
we agreed, an opposable thumb with uncommon nip
for the use of anyone not wishing to lose their grip.