States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'Lichen: 13 points' by Lesley Lebkowicz

1        They know the subtler shades of green and where each one belongs;
2        and some reds:
          ochre, orange and something aching towards crimson –
          all in a single patch;
3        they grow patiently
          as little as a hair’s breadth a year;
4        and live on bark and stone and brick and soil
          and even on a bus abandoned near Jerramungup;
5        some eat that on which they live,
          working hollows into stone,
          making of diet and habitation one thing,
          a modest economy;
6        they cope with hard things
          and take on the colonising of a quarry;
7        some make minute fronds which can lift from bark into air
          or wrinkle over protrusions;
8        they are sensitive – and have been used
          to measure the pollution that we make;
9        both gentle and harsh terrains are their home,
          rainforests and deserts, and they live according to their means:
          it’s in the Arctic that they grow most slowly;
10      they have humility:
          most live for nothing but rain and air and sunshine.
11      There is, though, no such thing as lichen:
          which is made of algae and fungi in intimate relationship
          and is an image of no-self (anatta), the different elements
          wound together to create the illusion of solidity;
12      and also an image of tolerance:
          the different forms living as one.
13      In this they are a comfort.

Lesley Lebkowicz


‘Lichen: 13 points’ was was placed second in the ACU competition in 2017 and published in the shortlist chapbook.