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She was only a little thing,

small as a shrimp, agitated as a mayfly.

I watched her as she stood on the rim, ranting,

too small to be heard, her oratory

a faint, thin whisper. She was angry,

angry. I watched her twitch

under a magnifying glass;

she was almost beautiful, with her spidery arms

and puckered cheeks. With the right technology

her voice could be amplified,

springing into earshot like batsong.

Listen to me, she was shouting, listen,

you have to listen, before it’s too –

Then she got boring, and I flipped her

back in the box, and closed the lid.



Mari Girling is an English Teacher, and previously worked as a stained glass maker.  She has not previously had her poetry published, but as a young adult she had articles published in the British Journal of Photography, and two children’s stories read on Listen With Mother . ‘Specimen’ began as a whole class exercise which she wrote alongside her students, teaching Creative Writing at A-level.


Carol Ann Duffy says: Another deliciously quirky poem is Mari Girling’s ‘Specimen’. This, too, has a fairytale quality to it. It’s very intriguing, especially that image in the first verse: ‘small as a shrimp, agitated as a mayfly’. Its theme, about an ignored and unheard voice, would work well in an anthology for a teenage readership.


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