Auden

Greetings to my yeasts and bacterias

The picture above is from an episode of Futurama I watched with my boys. The robot, Bender, is adrift in space. His body is populated by ‘Shrimpkins’.

Auden wrote “A New Year Greeting” the year I was born. It was in response to an article entitled, “Life on the Human Skin“. I think it is rather fine.

A New Year Greeting

        After an article by Mary J. Marples
        in Scientific American, January, 1969

     On this day tradition allots
        to taking stock of our lives,
     my greetings to all of you, Yeasts,
        Bacteria, Viruses,
     Aerobics and Anaerobics:
        A Very Happy New Year
     to all for whom my ectoderm
        is as Middle-Earth to me.

     For creatures your size I offer
        a free choice of habitat,
     so settle yourselves in the zone
        that suits you best, in the pools
     of my pores or the tropical
        forests of arm-pit and crotch,
     in the deserts of my fore-arms,
        or the cool woods of my scalp.

     Build colonies: I will supply
        adequate warmth and moisture,
     the sebum and lipids you need,
        on condition you never
     do me annoy with your presence,
        but behave as good guests should,
     not rioting into acne
        or athlete's-foot or a boil.

     Does my inner weather affect
        the surfaces where you live?
     Do unpredictable changes
        record my rocketing plunge
     from fairs when the mind is in tift
        and relevant thoughts occur
     to fouls when nothing will happen
        and no one calls and it rains.

     I should like to think that I make
        a not impossible world,
     but an Eden it cannot be:
        my games, my purposive acts,
     may turn to catastrophes there.
        If you were religious folk,
     how would your dramas justify
        unmerited suffering?

     By what myths would your priests account
        for the hurricanes that come
     twice every twenty-four hours,
        each time I dress or undress,
     when, clinging to keratin rafts,
        whole cities are swept away
     to perish in space, or the Flood
        that scalds to death when I bathe?

     Then, sooner or later, will dawn
        a Day of Apocalypse,
     when my mantle suddenly turns
        too cold, too rancid, for you,
     appetising to predators
        of a fiercer sort, and I
     am stripped of excuse and nimbus,
        a Past, subject to Judgement.

             1969