Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Poem - The Conjugation of the Paramecium by Muriel Rukeyser

The Conjugation of the Paramecium*
This has nothing
to do with

The species
is continued
as so many are
(among the smaller creatures)
by fission

(and this species
is very small
next in order to
the amoeba, the beginning one)

The paramecium
achieves, then,
by dividing

But when
the paramecium
desires renewal
strength another joy
this is what
the paramecium does:

The paramecium
lies down beside
another paramecium

Slowly inexplicably
the exchange
takes place
in which
some bits
of the nucleus of each
are exchanged

for some bits
of the nucleus
of the other

This is called
the conjugation of the paramecium.
Muriel Rukeyser

*paramecium |ˌparəˈmē sh (ē)əm; -sēəm|noun Zoology - a single-celled freshwater animal that has a characteristic slipper-like shape and is covered with cilia. • Genus Paramecium, phylum Ciliophora, kingdom Protista.ORIGIN mid 18th cent.modern Latin, from Greek paramēkēs ‘oval,’ from para- ‘against’ +mēkos ‘length.’

Helle Jorgensen

Whilst on the subject of sea creatures, please follow the links below. . . Helle Jorgensen is a master in the art of crocheting what most of us would consider the impossibly complex. . . 

http://hellejorgensen.typepad.com/photos/artcraft/index.html (recovered plastic bags become yarn out of which Helle crochets elaborate sea creatures. . . see Echino below)

For more Tuesday Poems, please clink (I mean, click) on the quill. Janis Freegard is this week's editor on the TP hub with Vivienne Plumb's prose poem 128 Abel Street.


  1. Delightful!

    Even the dictionary-definition has grace: slipper-shape, etc.

    Many thanks, dear Claire!

  2. Big smile over here. From the poem to a crocheted (sp?)creature of the sea, which I have yet to tackle with a pencil.

    Impressive in its detail.

    Thank you Claire.

  3. A sexy science poem! Hard to achieve, but beautifully wrought.

    I love that philosophical flight of fancy near the beginning of Tom Robbins' novel, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" when he posits that the very first amoeba is still here today and may be anywhere at this moment in time, even up your nose.

  4. I love this - used to read quite a bit of Muriel Rukeyser, so this is a reminder to pick her up again.

  5. claire, where is the image of the paramecium from?
    (etching? electronmicroscopy?)

    i used to draw them in high school, endlessly...
    yes, i was a bit odd.

  6. Mim - isn't it an elegant creature? Google reveals clever people who have taken the 'slipper' reference quite to heart and created a range of paramecium footwear. I'd wear a pair, wouldn't you? xo

  7. Hi Ant! Happy to know you're smiling over there. I'd love to see some of your drawings one day, Ant? (Pretty please?)

  8. Ben Hur, hello. It is a sexy poem, isn't it. . . ! Not quite as sexy, the consideration that one of the world's oldest critters might be up one of our noses right this very moment?!! The idea makes me want to sneeze. Bless me! And bless you and the masterful Tom Robbins!! Your comment made me chuckle ; )

  9. Hi Kathleen - lovely to find you here. Thanks for visiting. I'd 'forgotten' (though not really) Muriel Rukeyser for a while, too. She never fails to satisfying and surprise. There's nothing fuzzy-edged about her writing; it's as though she's looking through a hi-def. camera (or, as in this instance, a microscope), her take on things all sharp-focus and clarity.

  10. Hi Susan, I'm afraid I can't remember where I found this image (would ideally have acknowledged the source). It's been sitting in my draft box for yonks and when I searched through Google images again, it was nowhere to be seen. I imagine it's a drawing - it brings to mind Haeckel's exquisite biological atlases, and could well be one of his. I will have another look.

    You were an odd child? That makes two of us. I suspect most of us out here were. . . which says something of us as adults, too, yes? As Marylinn wrote in a recent post, ". . . What is great in us comes from our otherness. It is the compost in which we bloom and thrive. It will carry us past our imagined limitations. All we have to do is scratch it behind its curiously-shaped ears and love it."

    Btw, there are people out (t)here making felted paramecium key rings and stuffed toys, which is kind of endearing?!

    What happened to your drawings? If you still have them would you consider posting one on TK? xo