This poem was inspired by a field trip to Peacehaven beach, led by Dr. Rory Mortimore, on 18 September 1999. He demonstrated how to remove a fossil from the Chalk, then lent me his hammer. I extracted an echinocorys which matched the size and shape of echinocorys scutata (large form) on Dr. Mortimore’s photocopied sheet. I took it home, cleaned it up with a toothbrush – then wondered what to do with it . . .
Doris Echinocorys came home with me.
I’d prised her out of a block by the sea
With a geological hammer in the time-honoured manner,
Chipping Peacehaven’s Chalk to set her shell free.
Eighty-odd million years before
Doris had hit the Cretaceous sea floor
For chalky encasement and calcite replacement
In a layer above the marly Old Nore.
Getting her out, there’s no denying,
Was quite an achievement and most satisfying
For one who, ’til now didn’t really know how,
And thought hammering rocks on the shore not worth trying.
She’s not tectiformis, truncata, cincata –
Nothing so puny: she’s large-form scutata.
I’ve washed her and tagged her and dried her and bagged her.
I’ve done all things right, I could not have been smarter.
But Doris has neither beauty nor brain
(Not to mince words, she’s terribly plain).
I don’t much expect her to interest a collector –
I doubt if I’ll look at her ever again.