“There’s no effort which is not beautiful – lifting a heavy stone or loving you.”
– Jeanette Winterson, The PowerBook
Like me, it is a roller, begins the climb diligently, furry legs pressed against
its dung-ball burden, as Monday promises much.
Unlike me, it likes an all-nighter: can heft by the Milky Way and commit to its starlit labours.
Like me, its habits are misunderstood. The ancient Egyptians believed
scarabs only male, their young emerging from those loaded spheres.
Unlike me, they were believed to push the sun itself across the sky, right round
through the underworld, back for morning. So industrious and GIF-like.
Like me, they are various, multiplicities: Rhinoceros, Hercules, Maybug, Cockchafer.
Unlike me, their bodies are hard and shiny – though perhaps mine could
be, with work.
Like me, they sometimes stop and look up, seem to wonder where the hell
in this desert they are.
Unlike me, they simply push on, unconcerned with comparison, befuddled
by the ethics of Egyptian theft.
Like me, they should be met on their own terms; to do their job and know
that gravity will win.
Let’s unite, beetles; divest our old names like exuviae – I’ll shimmy out from
homo sapiens, unburden myself from man.
Let’s roll the sun together: through days trembling like antennae, iridescent;
through nights like underworlds, crisp with exoskeleton.
Copyright ©Caleb Parkin, 2021
ABOUT THE POEM
“I Compare Myself to a GIF of a Dung Beetle” is from Caleb Parkin’s This Fruiting Body. This 2021 collection features adventurous, queer eco-poems, visiting Mediterranean extra-terrestrial extremities and fatbergs at the Museum of London.
Shakespeare considered a comparison to a summer’s day in “Sonnet 18”, but “I Compare Myself to a GIF of a Dung Beetle”, set in the present day of GIFs and all-nighters, surprises through the unexpected comparison of modern poet and ancient insect. The poem takes a distinctive form, demonstrating similarities and differences, closing in a joyful invitation to unite.
“Exuviae” refers to “the remains of an exoskeleton and related structures that are left after ecdysozoans (including insects, crustaceans and arachnids) have moulted” (Wikipedia).
ABOUT THE POET
Caleb Parkin, Bristol City Poet 2020-22, has poems in The Rialto, The Poetry Review, Under the Radar, Poetry Wales, Magma, Butcher’s Dog, The Guardian and elsewhere. He tutors for Poetry Society, Poetry School, Cheltenham Festivals, First Story and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) with a research dissertation focused on museum and gallery settings. His debut pamphlet Wasted Rainbow was published by tall-lighthouse (Feb 2021); debut collection This Fruiting Body is out now with Nine Arches Press.