‘Pulex irritans’ by Jenny Dixon (Issue 86)

Pulex irritans

I am the n times great-grandson
of the flea that famously bit John Donne.
Crushed to death by a lover’s nail,
yet hers is not a sorry tale.
Her undeserved assassination
fired the poet’s imagination:
transmogrification of common flea
into metaphysical imagery.

My great-grandsire was put in a book
by enlightenment thinker, Robert Hooke.
Though you must be dead, beyond all hope,
to be spread on the plate of a microscope,
Hooke’s intricate drawing let everyone see
the beauty of flea anatomy.
Depicted in detail, as big as a cat, he a-
ppears in Hooke’s great Micrographia.

It’s gratifying for a flea
to have an illustrious pedigree:
forefleas who nobly played their parts
in History, Science and the Arts.

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