Luke Worthy

Luke Worthy

Young Poet in Residence 2023 in collaboration with Hive South Yorkshire

Luke Worthy is a queer poet and fiction writer from Sheffield now based in Amsterdam. His work has been published in journals and anthologies including Poetry Wales, Youth Word Up, Surfing the Twilight (2019) and Dear Life (2022). He was shortlisted for the New Poet’s Prize 2021 and has been commissioned to write a piece of children’s literature for Leeds 2023. Luke is an alumnus of Sheffield Young Writers and a member of Hive Poetry.

For his residency with Sheaf Poetry Festival 2023, Luke wrote the commissioned poem Tun State, inspired by our festival theme of ‘Brains and Consciousness.’ Read the poem watch Luke reading it below.

Tun state

I cycle east to a museum on microbes, nestled

in the type of neighbourhood you walk around pretending

you can afford to live there. By the entrance,

school kids are all noise wishing this was the zoo.

In room one, mould is raving through an unsuspecting

brown loaf. Bacteria embalmed in petri-dishes line

the walls like platinum EPs. Screens show

mitochondria tinselling the body’s coral, nuclei

chugs DNA, as if wanting to divide and forget,

like the cells that sprout tendrils to reach out and grab.

I move on, I know why I’m here – for the tardigrades.

I find them in the centre of an air-conditioned room,

in an enclosure no smaller than a bottle cap. I peer

through the scope, see an entire phylum of comets

bound in orbit, chubby, comma-shaped bears letting us

gaze at their tiny, translucent lives. They suckle

the jelly from each other, pad through the whiteness

like floating stairs, marshmallow accordions spinning

out a quiet wish. I stand there a while, try to listen. I want

to know what they want, why they are here?

 I’m about to leave when a scientist leans over, says

they’re actually dying you know.

The light is scorching them. He’s smug, as if it was him

that coaxed them onto the machine with his algae-filled

pipette. I watch as they begin rolling

themselves up in glowing shields across the pyre,

hallowing themselves into crypts. I’ve been good

my whole life. Closeted myself when asked, never jumped

a loo turnstile. Discoloured my ass with Nair. But I know

a puddle, slick with lichen. And like those campaigners,

who break into Seaworld to take the orcas back out to the ocean,

I’ll free these tardigrades, tell their pea-milk souls that soon,

humans will be gone, and there’ll be no monarchy, no

water taxation, no rising in dark rooms for false Gods.

Just stillness. Moss. Eggs.