close up of wildflowers on a field

A short free verse piece

close up of wildflowers on a field
Photo by Damir on


I heard David Attenborough on the TV –

Says the planet needs diversity.

Multiplicity, complexity, plurality of form

Makes the norm

For the ecosphere,

It seems.


They are 11 when it starts. Too early, too scary.

The body that had held them, played with them, had fun with them

Begins to

Betray them.

Changing shape, strange hairs; they

Don’t know themselves any more.

The adults notice, make comments.

It’s as if they’ve become hyper-visible –

To themself, too.

They look in the mirror.

Horrified, terrified, realised

Where this is heading.

No way to stop it?

Gym! Change the shape, sculpt the body!

People lie.

Gym can’t sculpt the body.

Not as far as you need it.

Not as much as you want it.

Not into coherence:

Coherence for them, watching you.

Coherence for you, living it.

And when they get right down to it,

No name for those parts that bring most joy;

The parts that connect – to self, to others, cosmic electricity.


Hairstyles, clothing, birthday gifts

Public spaces, family trips

Online forms, relationships

“Man bun”, “Lady Beard”

“Hello, ladies!”, “Come on, lads!”

Nights out and mornings in the gym

School and work and every bloody thing –

Not a minute of respite, not a moment of rest,

There’s fucking gender


But, strangely, just 2 of them.

Too much gender?

Or not enough?


My kids are at a Worthing school,

They’re always doing eco projects for class:

Meeting hedgehogs, cycling – recycling;

Adopt a verge!’ (that was cool –

Planted flowers, seeds and grasses).

No pesticides!

The kids will be wiser than we were.

Wiser than my dad,

He couldn’t stand a dandelion, wouldn’t tolerate toadflax or thistle

Bloody Weeds! he called ’em, wielding his deadly spray.

My kids understand the many rare things a dandelion can do.

They see the beauty in campion and cowslip and they’ve taught me –

There’s no flowers and weeds, but an abundance of forms –

No benchmark, no standard, no binary or norm.


Biodiversity – nature’s variety:

Multiplicity, complexity, plurality of form

In our precious, powerful,



(auto-generated image of a meadow; we need all of it (and all of us).

In summer 2023, Worthing Theatres and Museum hosted an LGBTQI+ art exhibition. Bless them. There was hostility and critique from some locals, but this year there will again be activities and visibilities around Worthing over summer. We’re feeling seen and we’re feeling braver in this small town.

I was invited to do something for the exhibition opening and bashed out this short piece of free verse.

It has 3 voices in it: a cishet bloke who’s seen David Attenborough on telly; the queer NB narrator; a cishet young mum whose kids are helping her undo the binarised narratives (like weed:flower) that her own parents put on her.

If you’d seen me perform it live, jumping around the room and shifting spaces, you’d have got the 3 voices / positionalities. It’s not so clear on a page. But there’s been a few written pieces around lately that are making the same move that I’m offering here – pointing out that diversity is natural, part of the normal run of life – and actually healthy. Without it, we perish.

I taught sex/gender/sexuality for years at London University. If you want a few old nerd links (you know that I can’t help myself), here’s a couple of fun ones. Because science.

Deconstructing sexEvolution’s Rainbow; Complexities of Gender and SexDarwin’s Closet

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods. Caroline also writes. Find them on Substack at (Yes, there's a WIP and yes, it's a campus novel, but hang on - it's not a memoir, and it's not a thinly-disguised writeup of people and situations. I studied creative writing, trained, practiced and ** made it all up**).

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