In Ignorance of Basic Biology

by Paul Blaney

I cannot state with confidence that
This just-trimmed bush is a yew
Though such I believe it to be
And believe these brilliant berries
To denote the male of the species—
You needn’t ask me for a Latin name.

Certainly that other bush,
Likewise trimmed,
Appears devoid of any berry thus
Revealing its essential female-ity,
Isn’t that right? I’m sure I once
Read something to that effect.

Only why yew bushes—if yews
Indeed they are—why they should be
Divided so, the distaff and the other one,
What purpose it may serve
And how it all works,
I couldn’t begin to tell you.

Not intercourse of course,
Or not, Jim, as we know it,
Birds no doubt involved
Their beady eyes and beaks
Drawn to those bright,
To those red-ripe berries.

For that matter, I can only surmise
How the business works with birds,
Between the male with his smashing crest,
His dulcet notes and coloured waistcoat
And the rather duller, smaller
Female of the species.

(On the subject of piscine procreation,
For some reason, I’m far clearer—
The male spraying his sperm
Over the eggs like a man
Wielding a fire extinguisher.
Unless that’s frogs?)

With the facts of human reproduction,
The so-called birds and bees,
I’ve long been familiar,
I could probably still draw you
A diagram (cross-section)
Of the Fallopian tubes.

Only why humankind is so divided
Is a trickier, perhaps philosophic
Or theological question. Surely
Some other system might have served
As well, avoiding, moreover, so much
Mutual incomprehension.

So much heartache, headache,
Trouble and strife. People talk about
Variety, about life’s rich tapestry,
But if you ask me (if not, I’ll ask myself)
There’s much to be said for
Keeping things simple.

Born in London of Irish parents, Paul Blaney tried Portugal, Hong Kong and New Jersey before settling in Allentown, PA.

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