Provenance of name unknown – lost in
some entomologist’s periwig, or fallen
from his ear-trumpet into an inkwell.

When needed one could always be found
in manuscripts, combing the fine print,
leaving, if squashed, a messy signature.

Unlettered bibliophiles, earwigs can feel
secure between the most unnerving thoughts,
subversive quips; are untroubled equally

by the pedestrian and the soaring.
Endowed with wings rarely used, pincers
slow to take the point, they fare best

in the great outdoors, investigating
yellowed pages of Brussels sprouts,
promoting life’s general raggedness.

To hold or behold them may not be pleasant
yet they are quite unexceptionable –
forked tails curled up in meaningless threat.

Should they create a society, build
cities of fragments, promenade their young,
we might find them interesting, or endearing.

But what they like is to bore small holes in things.
Still, they know patience, make devoted mothers:
woven, as we are, into the world’s substance.