He’s mauve, orange, and pink,

stranded on the eighty Cowgate Steps.

How did he get there, halfway down

under the beige festoons of catkins,

all eight inches of him, with a yellow tail?

He could be a small snake,

but snakes aren’t mucoid and translucent,

pristine glistening, slippery from the rain.

I never thought I’d think an earthworm

anything but slimy and useful,

certainly not beautiful, as this one is.

And slow, so slow, almost as slow

as the way petals unfurl and ivy grows.

He has to move his front segment three times

before his rear end catches up.

Will he ever reach sanctuary at this speed?

No exit here, nowhere for a worm to hide.

Won’t he die, left out in the light too long?

Or dry out? Or feed a local bird?

His future isn’t good.

When he reaches the edge of the step

his head extends, waggling, questing into space

settles for slow downward progress.

He doesn’t have much choice.

When I try to ease him onto paper,

he concertinas and convulses, reversing.

Finally I manage, flicking him over the wall

onto damp leaf mould.

He lies so still I think I must

have injured him. But then I see

that slowly, as imperceptibly as bramble growth,

the hermaphroditic apricot head

is disappearing into humus,

surely like trying to dig a hole

with soggy tissue, as he

eats his way underground.

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