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2 poems by Genevieve Carver

Updated: Feb 23

Nature Documentary

Let’s face it, you’ve always thought of yourself as the penguin chick

that almost doesn’t make it off the sinking ice floe

then does, just when the strings are getting frantic in the BBC studio,

the orca’s jaws closing in like a countdown to your birthday.

Now that there are more plastic garden flamingos than actual flamingos

you always fancied yourself as a real one

just because you’ve smelt the toxic algae in your sweat, just because

your lifted leg is quivering – but who says the ornamentals

aren’t readying themselves to fly? Who says you won’t go with them

lift off from your rockery display, soar above the Lego tower blocks

fake moss between your talons, bouquet of plastic flowers in your beak

to fill the burning lakes with something that won’t wilt?

Lab Rats

“Anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than in men...[but] animal models of fear and anxiety, which form the basis for research into drug treatments, have been developed almost exclusively using males.”

-Lovick and Zangrossi, Effect of Estrous Cycle on Behavior of Females in Rodent Tests of


I’m shown around the lab by one of those sexy scientists you get on television – auburn hair, spotless white coat, thick-rimmed glasses. She takes me through the old lab, lit by bare light bulbs that flicker on and off like a scene from an ITV thriller. The cages are poky. The bars are rusting. Inside the cages are tiny men, about the size of your little finger. I’m talking biologically here – nobody asks them their pronouns. The men are naked. One is digging in the wood shavings with his hands. His nails are bleeding. Every so often, lab technicians come and frighten the men with gunfire sounds and incomplete tax returns. Sometimes the men cry and sometimes they hide inside the empty loo-roll tubes.

This is the new lab, says the sexy scientist, showing me into another room. This lab has mood lighting and indoor plants. The cages are spacious and each one has a miniature velvet sofa, like dolls house furniture. On each sofa sits a tiny naked woman. A PhD student leans over one of the cages and holds a mirror up to the woman inside. The woman starts screaming and pulling out her hair, but the student just makes a note on her clipboard and says, here’s your tax return.

I’m looking forward to the women’s drugs they’ll make. Think of all that success and self-acceptance. The scientist lowers her glasses down her nose. Now, honey-pie, she says, just pop off your clothes and step onto these scales for me. I tell her there’s been a mistake. I make a break for the door but the lab technicians manhandle me onto the scales. They clamp a helmet full of probes onto my head. Just before it all goes black, a meadow opens up inside my skull. Harebells bloom in my ears.


Genevieve Carver is the author of A Beautiful Way to be Crazy (Verve Poetry

Press), and Landsick (Broken Sleep Books ). Her poetry has appeared in journals

including Mslexia, The White Review, The North, the London Magazine, Magma

and Poetry News, and she won The Moth Nature Writing Prize 2022.


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