Welwitschia and Bristlecone

Squat, dishevelled baglady of Namibia, O
you really are in quite a mess.
Your two and only underblankets sprawl
in tatters on the ground.
Your tongue is always hanging out
in eager expectation of the hour
when fog comes rolling up the coastal strip
and you can get your first drink of the day.

You’ve been around for ever.
Way, way before Magellan sailed his skimpy caravel
into the Benguela drift, you hunkered down
in this far-from-prepossessing pitch.
Your ancestors date back to the Jurassic,
each fossil generation scratching out
the same bare living from the wilderness.
You keep your head by lying low.

The same goes for the bristlecone,
another ancient down-at-heel survivor.
High in the Rockies where the ice-winds blow,
it clocks millennia by sitting tight.
Half-naked through its rags of bark,
it isn’t beautiful at all.
Just very old, like you, and with no choice;
having to make the best of what it’s got.

– David Morphet 2007