Conservatives in crisis by Judith Taylor

Brexit vote sees highest spike in religious and racial hate crimes ever recorded (Independent, 7th July 2017)


Parasite turns wasp into zombie then drills through its head (New Scientist, 25th January 2017)


Bassettia pallida – the crypt

gall wasp, as it’s commonly known –


is parasitic on oak trees: under its influence

the tree makes hollow galls


in which the young of the wasp develop

till they’re ready


to eat their way out

and find their prey in the world.


But there is a smaller wasp

Euderus set – that manipulates


the manipulator. Gall wasps it infects

chew out an exit they’re not ready for;


die blocking it. And inside

the Euderus grub


whose jaws are rarely tough

enough for oak-bark, eats its host


grows strong, and when it senses spring

chews its way out to freedom


and other hosts, through a neat hole

in the gall-wasp’s head.


Which is where now

– you with the gall – you find yourself:


the thing that impelled you flown

free in the world


and you here wondering

why you can’t get moving


head all empty, jaw

chewing on air


working at nothing

but strong and stable.

Questions for the sky-watcher by Judith Taylor

What lightning strike
what fireball, what catastrophe
are you scanning for so avidly
in these bad times?
What part of yourself

you’re afraid even to speak of
goes muttering under the surface of your mind
how some apocalypse
would be kinder than this slow choking
in our own stupidity?

And what will we leave? – another
comforting question. What far future
archaeologist from a new star
will extrapolate our culture from these
ski boots and coffee-capsules and

wonder at our poisoning
the very waters under the earth?
Or ask why it consoles us less
to believe we will have cancelled ourselves
at present rates

before the atmosphere boils away
and into space: that rainfall
will continue, plate tectonics will continue
to grid us away, and cover up
our isotope trace.

That something
– some bacterium in a cockroach gut
possibly – will grow up to be
Life on Earth in a distant era
and will ask itself

what lightning strike
what fireball, what catastrophe set
the chain of events in slow motion
till they gave rise to it, as we
ask ourselves now.


Judith Taylor lives and works in Aberdeen. Her poetry has been published widely in magazines, and in two pamphlet collections – Earthlight (2006) and Local Colour (2010). Her first full-length collection, Not in Nightingale Country, will be published in Autumn 2017 by Red Squirrel Press.