Flies and Nettles

Flies and Nettles

The purpose of nettles is to make more nettles,
green, bitter, sharply hairy and introverted,
and they in turn shall make yet more nettles,
and so on, until the land is nettle-cloaked.

From a space station it might look like green baize.

Ditto for flies; the air will be full of flies;
and the green baize will not be seen by the astronauts
because of all the flies that are in between.

And mankind will live between the flies and nettles.

When men have poisoned the nettles and the flies,
the granular skin of the earth will be visible,
but not for long, because the people will breed
and encrust the land like a swarm of locusts.

Then people crowded upon demented people
will succumb to their poisons, and once again
the earth will be brown and bare, or nearly so –
for the torpid roots will be stirring themselves
and flies will crawl on stiff legs out of their silos.

Soon the land will again be coated in nettles,
stinging the flesh that strokes them, and all the air
will vibrate to the incessant humming of the flies.

'Flies and Nettles' from The Brown Parrots of Providencia (Faber & Faber, 1993), © Fergus Allen 1993, used by permission of the author.


Fergus Allen

Fergus Allen Reading from his Poems


2The Brown Parrots of Providencia

3Tanks in Moscow

4Foreign Relations

5Actor in Mirror

6Sodium Light

7Wall of Death Bray

8Flies and Nettles

9Knight Errant

10Modern Times

11Blue Sky Dusty Horizon

12When the Car Gave Up the Ghost

13Who Goes There

14A Time for Blushing

15The Lives of the Cousins

16To Be Read Before Being Born

17A Young Protestant Lady

18Parental Guidance


20Waltzing with Veronica

21The Visitant


23Eve's Lament 24Fancy Dress


26After Pneumonia


28At the Meeting of the Niles

29Gas Light & Coke



32A Bad Debt (1842)


34Death Sentences

Books by Fergus Allen