We ease you open.

Hinged to each valve
a pale tongue rooted in silence
tears from its mantle.

You slacken and still.

A clear liquid oozes lustre
gleaned from ocean salt.

Muscle and foot, we scrape you
out, put you to one side,
globby and unfortunate.

Such is fate.

Carved into your shell
we find trade routes, the wake
of explorers, contours of underwater
mountains, the migratory patterns
of whales.

We measure the scrawled ridges,
scribbled centuries of silt and swell,
share tales – the ancients
of the deep:

ghost barnacles
on a fairground tail-slap swirl;
turritopsis dohrnii, aspic thimbles,
their eternal cycle of drifting light;

horseshoe crabs caught by the tide
in halls of porous rock,
tails and spines shattered
by the blast.

We call you Ming.
You are older than this world
we created.

We wrap your gummy form
in polythene, keep it on ice.

Ming, the bivalve mollusc was ‘born’ in 1499, meaning it was swimming in the oceans before Henry VIII took the English throne. It was unfortunately killed by researchers when they opened its shell to find out how old it was.

Jane Lovell is an award-winning poet whose work focuses on our relationship with the planet and its wildlife. She has been widely published in journals and anthologies in the UK and US. She has won the Flambard Prize (2015), the Wigtown Prize (2018) and the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize (2020) and has been shortlisted for several other literary awards including the Basil Bunting Prize, the Robert Graves Prize and Periplum Book Award. Her latest collection is the prize-winning The God of Lost Ways published by Indigo Dreams Press. Jane lives in Kent and is Writer-in-Residence at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.