(Image: DeAgostini/Getty Images)
(Image: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

BooksJuly 1, 2022

The Friday Poem: ‘Ophiocordyceps unilateralis’ by Rushi Vyas

(Image: DeAgostini/Getty Images)
(Image: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

A new poem by Dunedin poet Rushi Vyas.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

Blood remembers. The infection starts
with an innocent fungal cell. A word.

The word replicates, acts as a proto-molecule,
interlocks with offspring, builds walls,

carves tubes. The cell culture echoes. The city limits
shake. The colonized ant feels a ghost possess

their muscles, walk them away from those they love
toward a depression at the leaf’s underbelly.

Laugh it off. The ant hardens their exoskeleton.
Sharpens the mandible too. History overwhelms.

Parasites hold the whip. The infection begins
with one. Just a word. Then the word protrudes

as a purple stalk through the skull, a crowning
ornament for the body made instrument

by another’s want. What follows is inevitable
as snow. The colonized transmogrifies, the shell

erupts. The spores fall on the colony below.
Do not name death winter. Do not say a word.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are welcome and will be open until 31 July 2022. Please send up to three poems in a Word or PDF document to chris@christse.co.nz.

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