by Sean Q. Beeching
A lichen, one may theorize,
When on the future casts his eyes,
His dear descendants he descries.
Eternal life, so it appears,
And a youth that lasts a thousand years,
The lichen spurns as cause for tears.
He dreams, or she, perhaps I’ll say,
Of numerous, happy, progeny,
With whom it would, perforce, parté.
The truth to which one must attest,
Is that our lives may not be blest,
And nuclear winter may end the fest.
In which event the lichen too,
Will perish along with me and you,
Unless a lifeboat he can constue.
But how to effect the goal sublime?
To reproduce two souls entwined,
Involves a course most labyrinthine.
Too sadly he must bid ado,
To sex, I’m sorry, but it’s true,
The ordinary method won’t work for two.
By sex what here we represent,
Does not demand adult consent,
Simple meiosis is all that’s meant.
These poor dears, for aught we know,
Lack the genders and hence forgo,
What here to say would not be apropos.
And had they genders, why they’d be four,
Two for the fungus, for the alga two more,
As state of affairs one would deplore.
It would lead to confusion,
To mishap and exclusion,
And not, in fine, to the hoped for diffusion.
One half, if the better, I’ll not say,
May be engendered in the usual way,
What results, I’m afraid, is a lichen manqué.
Oft tales are told of the sailing spores,
Which travel the heavens beyond our shores
And by means unknown the lichen restores.
Yet how the bionts reunite,
On what rare moonlit starry night;
It remains conjecture, that secret rite.
Yet how the lichen reunites,
By what fantastic arcane rites
Remains unknown, they’re unseen sights.
(Betwixt the preceding tercets twain
Neither of the other could the advantage gain,
I’ve left them both as a short refrain.)
Though it may happen, it seems farfetched,
Belief must needs be sorely stretched,
To credit the procedure I have thus far sketched.
Instead the lichen puts his trust,
In structures far removed from lust;
They seem to us no more than dust.
Within the thallus, all unseen,
Assembles the lichen his breeding machine,
As in an ant hill he were the queen.
At length the surface of its skin,
Reveals the tumult deep within,
It writhes and wrinkles and waxes thin.
Upon its face begin to vent,
Depending on the creature’s bent,
Features odd but of small extent.
Their smallness is indeed a test
Of our student’s eyesight. They protest,
And think our labels a cruel jest.
They’re each quite different, we declare,
Which drives them all to black despair,
As at the mocking plants they stare.
And truth to tell not even we,
Are always sure which one we see,
Isidia, soredia, which could it be?
Regardless which these fly aloft,
Both symbionts combined but soft,
They fall to earth, not seldom but oft.
Back on the earth, behold, it sprouts,
It lives, it breathes, convention flouts,
And grows to manhood, or thereabouts.
Thus, dear readers, have you now heard,
A tale as marvelous but far less blurred,
Than that of the logos, the living word.
Should that comparison seem extreme;
By it am I seen to blaspheme:
It’s nothing, I assure you, but blown off steam.