Ken Howe
Essays on Tick Ontogeny

1. In outward aspect the tick
is prim,
in its prep school cardigan,
rotund, crablike in attitude,
bilaterally symmetrical and
smug about it.

2. The tick is secreted by several varieties of terrestrial flora as an alternative to the more
conventional flower or bud. Composed primarily of iron compounds extracted from the soil
it begins life liquid, a russet bead dangling from stem or leaf, hardening like amber in the
sun. Here it congeals into tickness.
Maturity is attained in two to three days,
signaled by the appearance of

It dons its white dickie and awaits a host.

3. Not all, however, choose to drill their tiny heads into a passing epidermis imbibing
therein the rich velour of subcutaneous streams. The less dramatic path is to assimilate,
flattening into an unfamiliar freckle or mole which fades over the long summer months as it
sinks beneath the surface. Later as stylistic idiosyncrasy or unaccountable behaviour it may

4. Most ticks, however, pursue a
different career, that of tick penetrant, cephalo-
spelunker of submerged streams and spillways within its host.
Its head immersed in the dermis, the tick
gazes out between
sebaceous follicles and the frilled taffeta of sweat glands,
marvelling before the dance of
lymph and haemoglobin, the dim vermilion light
of the inner dawn.

Autumn comes and, as the wineskin of its body attains spheroid consummation, it rolls
free among leaves and rosaceous windfall, seeding the earth with the bitter humours and aspirations of its host.

Tick season will return, and as the snowy blanket of winter is drawn back from the land a new generation will emerge, contemplatives of the dermal layers, introspection incarnate.