To Strain Out a Gnat


Readers are advised that the following poem contains words and concepts that they may find to be objectionable.
While any such objections may be understandable, they would not be justifiable, as is argued in the poem.

Matthew 23:24
de gustibus non disputandum

A universe of shit! Is that too much?

Better, perhaps, to say a ‘planet of shit’.

After all, every living animal on Earth
continually excretes its dollops of shit
– or poo, or faeces or such other word
we use instead of “rudely” saying shit.

Saying shit has long been considered vulgar,
unlike most of its many euphemisms.

But what’s the point of having euphemisms?

If I can borrow one line from the bard,
A rose by any name would smell as sweet,
so why should not the same apply to shit?

We’ve never had to blink when saying rape.

Why should we blink at saying fuck or shit.

But these two words are now more often heard.
We hear them shouted on the television.
They’re merely part of the common dialogue.
But, funnily enough, you find in print
the curious spelling f, two dots, and k.
No one is fooled, but it breaks the evil spell.
You see, less often, s, two dots, and t,
but shit by any spelling smells the same.

Though now accustomed to hearing shit and fuck,
we’re very coy about doing shit and piss.

No “Pardon me, where is the shit house, please?”
With uncharacteristic modesty we ask
“Could you direct me to the bathroom, please?”

My bathroom has no bath in it as such.

It has a shower, a vanity and toilet.

A TOILET!? Sorry, I meant to say, “a bathroom”.
It has a shower, a vanity and a bathroom.
My other bathroom has nothing but a bathroom.

And, as some unlucky person might discover,
some bathrooms do not have a TOILET in them.
When what you really want is to have a bath,
make sure to be very specific when you ask.

Both lavatory and toilet once were euphemisms,
originally relating to cleansing of the body.
I wonder what the next euphemism will be.

But I concede that shit itself is yucky.
And yet some species’ shit is food for others.

I saw once, in a back street in Rajasthan,
two stray pigs avidly gobbling down
some little piles of steaming fresh cow shit.

Dung beetles make small balls of animal dung,
dark sticky tiny planets of pure shit.
They lay their eggs in them. Some bury them.
The next generation then eats its way out
and then devours the entire incubator.

Every kind of dung beetle feeds on shit,
and many other species eat it too,
including plants and microorganisms.

We, also, ingest a modicum of shit,
like those of us who enjoy their alcohol,
which is the shit of yeasts that feed on sugar.

And many of us like all sorts of cheese,
whose form and taste are influenced by the shit
of various types of bacteria and yeasts.
“Mummy! Look! There’s black stuff in your cheese!”
“It’s blue vein, Darling. You’ll love it when you’re big.”
“But it smells yucky, Mummy, yuck, yuck, yuck.”

Like every living animal on Earth,
we all are bound to continually take in
our oxygen, essential for our life
but also the excrement of every plant.

There still is more that must be said about shit.

The famous quantum scientist, Schrödinger,
he of the cat that’s both alive and dead,
also wrote a book called What is Life?.

He described all life as being just a system,
a system that takes in matter and energy,
converts it into much more complex forms
and then excretes the degraded residue.

This makes shit then an essential aspect of life,
and makes life seem like a universal process.

So, in their search for extraterrestrial life,
scientists look for evidence of such shit.

They look for substances they think could not
be there in the absence of any form of life;
and otherwise would long since have decayed.

Then could that mean a universe of shit?

Unfortunately – or fortunately – no.

Life is more than going through the process
of the building up of Schrödinger’s complex forms.
which would become stores of potential energy.
Such bubbles of power would very quickly burst.

Life continually uses all that it takes in,
for reproducing and diversifying,
selectively taking from its environment
whatever it needs for safety and for sustenance.

Life’s resourceful, persistent, but also very fragile,
reliant on the integrity of its structure
and its finely balanced internal processes.

So there can’t be life or shit on the super-hot stars,
or on the other stars or in black holes.

And those who search for extraterrestrial life
find precious little on the planets and moons
they think might possibly support it.

Most of the universe is empty space,
more radiation and energy than material.

Life must be sparse throughout the universe.

And so, this is no universe of shit.

Well, can we say the earth is a planet of shit?

The surface of the planet teems with life,
the human population keeps increasing
and the effluent from our cities and our farms
pollutes the land, the rivers, and the oceans.

Shit must be getting more and more abundant.

It’s easy to think there’s more than what there is.

The life-giving crust of Earth is very thin.

There’s no life in the planet’s white-hot core.
There’s no life in the planet’s red-hot mantle.
The concentration’s low in desert sands,
and also in rocks and the large expanses of ice.

And our ecosystems use up all their shit.

While human culture is no ecosystem,
most of our shit eventually disappears
with a little help from other forms of life.

So shit is scarce. This is no planet of shit.

And time may come when, on this planet Earth,
there’ll be much less shit, and very little life.
Plants and microorganisms might remain.

We won’t make Earth become like Venus or Mars,
but we’re casually disrupting the conditions for life on Earth.

And, looking at everything everyone actually does,
and despite whatever they happen to say in public,
hardly anyone seems to give a shit.