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Michael Aiken

Gordian horsehair worms infect

their intermediate host

– mosquito larvae or other invertebrates –

by boring through the shell,

curl up in the gut and produce a cyst;

the mature mosquito in flight,

eaten by a cricket,


the cyst persists, lives again,

digesting the cricket from within,

then burrowing through its head

to drive the host to extreme thirst

‘til it hurls itself into water.

Immersed in a pond, the worm emerges

like toothpaste squeezed through a pinhole,

bursting the abdomen of its host.

Underwater, horsehairs come together,


release new eggs that grow and thrive

to intercept fresh hosts.

Closeup of a Black Dog

Michael Aiken is a grateful four-time recipient of a unique & delightful child.

He is a graduate of the University of Wollongong's undergraduate program in Writing and also completed honours in English Literature at UNE, with a thesis investigating interactions between built and organic environments in the poetry of contemporary US poet August Kleinzahler.

He is neurodiverse and has successfully applied that strength to a 13 year career in the NSW security industry, before switching to strategic communications in health and education.

Since 2019 he has been the owner and manager of Garden Lounge Creative Space, a specialist poetry bookstore and licenced cafe in Newtown, Sydney.

He is the author of two collections of poetry - A Vicious Example (GPP 2014), which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry, and The Little Book of Sunlight and Maggots (UWA 2019). In 2016 he was awarded the inaugural Australian Book Review Laureate's Fellowship in order to write his verse novel Satan Repentant (UWA 2018), under the mentorship of David Malouf.

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