Monday, 14 July 2008

The Possible Children

The word of the flower lies in the seed;
ghost of the flower that made the seed -

as you and I carried our recipe for children
all these years, like a smouldering secret -

I felt them, the possible children waiting,
with grandparent ghosts in their skin -

as I have seen them looking sometimes
through their faces, printed in their eyes;

and the children’s babies with years to sleep,
as buds are written at the heart of the flower.


The ear of the Universe

In the beginning is the Word,
which will write - it knows -

language of skin and bone -
shining eye letters, red heart.

Making vehicles of love
with gorgeous chemistry;

embroidering life’s poetry
in the ear of the Universe.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Sky is reading my heart and eyes

Thudding, low-slung, slate-wool booms,
shuddering my thin, temple shell-bones -

the crumbling Norse-god
is still in senile residence,

drunk on elemental forces,
mashed up, swallowed raw;

lurching randomly - loudly bumping
around dark, cavernous starry domes;

his resurrected sounds bang, hurt
my overblown pressured eyeballs.

Tree-greens are badly transfigured
into exorcised, crude, colour-spirit;

too lurid without leaf body -
silver palm, white sun-blood;

light fingers - like angel claws -
scratch through malevolent blue;

forces wrestling for the troubled soul
of this wrongly-polished summer day.

The laughing river is choked with mercury;
the stern Presbyterian loch sterilised, black.

Sky is reading my heart and eyes -
translating, replicating, mimicking;

suddenly watering the redundant, wormy
rose with enormous, sluggish silver tears -

that burst out intemperately,
like heavenly blood-letting.

Friday, 4 July 2008

In coming to know the Human Genome

‘Before the discovery of the Genome, we did not know there was a document at the heart of every cell three billion letters long of whose content we knew nothing – now, having read parts of that book we are aware of myriad new mysteries.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000


In coming to know the Human Genome

In coming to know the Human Genome,
we move nearer to understanding God -

not further away, as science has wrongly
driven us to conclude hitherto; far nearer

to hearing, reading, knowing the Word -
understanding the organic/spirit concept.

Science has turned the Victorian corner -
elaborating the white formula, Latin map,

it took for the nature, entire, of skeleton
and bone; red corpuscles, valve, muscle,

pumping blood mechanism, mistaken
for the whole heart solved, understood -

recognising now, under unromantic laboratory
striplights, this cold, synthetic gleam it mistook

for its own neutered soul, narrowness miscalculated
as clarity of vision - meanness of its slice scalpelled

from reality, analysed - alienated from context.
Always knowing somewhere this rigid, absolute

model did not fit these imprecise edges of reality -
where the utterly exact, knowable, comprehensible,

immutable, measureable, bleeds in and out
everywhere; is connected to everything else.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Was God Surprised by Us

Was God Surprised by Us

Was God surprised by us -
still; our hands, eyes, love,

even if He had dreamed
of the Word’s flowering;

of all possible blooms
in His evolving garden.

Was He pleased when we kneeled,
embarrassed, because He believes

in Freedom, Pride, Will - suffering
such unlikely price, gathering woe,

of no direct interference, witnessed
in this premature, burning autumn

of the garden - cultivated Winter
of Creation cultured by mankind.

Reluctantly leaving only amputated
power - dangling spiritual umbilical

cord, invisible,
up to Heaven.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Animal of the Universe

Animal of the Universe

Tonight a sky of stars is speaking light -
there is something I nearly understand,

coming from original dust, space-home;
as animal of the Universe. Some music

of colossal dancing, also under my skin,
as moving the tree’s ballet dancer arms.

But I can’t quite remember - make out
what they’re saying, singing; not quite.

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Moon’s Word

‘Th’unwearied Sun from day to day/ Does his Creator’s pow’r display;/ And publishes, to every land,/ The work of an almighty hand.// Soon as the evening shades prevail,/ The Moon takes up the wond’rous tale;/ And nightly to the listening Earth,/ Repeats the story of her birth…’ Joseph Addison, 1672-1719, An Ode

The Moon’s Word

It is the Moon’s word - hung
silver among whispering stars.

Shining white root,
before dust, stone -

the chattering letters of life -
organic noise of water, blood,

flesh and green;
elegies of death.

Wearing her soul -
which is cold light,

as insect and ice
wear exoskeleton;

her own lonely species
of light - honed so cool,

austerely holy, pure; turned
madly bright with loneliness.


A ragged rock bowl
of numb winter sea

hears her silver word,
even in sleeping skin,

mirror ear-sheen;
real as a dream -

twitches, remembering
vibrant sun languages;

the dazzling blindness,
shattering into wet fire -

poaching corpulent autumn suns,
sinking under, orange, overripe -

gutted gold light punctured
slowly over syrupy waves,

turning warm red
as animal blood.


In Nights’s black printing ink,
Moon’s white word is written;

voicing her negative, faux light,
until even a high, queenly tree -

wearing her jewel in keener’s hair -
her sparkling winter starnet tangles,

kneels to her waist in black soil;
and blue Earth holds her breath -

listening, all suspended, resting,
to the fledgling night-angel cry,

born apprentice in Nature’s pantheon;
a startling white owl, silver-dipped -

winged ornament, perfect accessory
in dark schemes of decorating night;

hearing the murdered animal spirits
crawling among moss, fallen leaves;

brittle consonants of glinting black flints -
river’s mercurial skin, her travelling heart

of music; long humming conundrums
of identity - signature impermanence -

smudging milk-blue air with luminosity;
sickly ghosts of her closed honeysuckle –

white brides who have failed with bees;
nunly they hang, offering up sacrifice -

perfume as the last prayer of the flower,
mimicking a signature smell of Heaven.


Her cold white sound,
bloodless command,

has won the season’s night -
overcome both Sun and Earth,

which no longer breathe;
leaving only monuments.


Moon, always the last white light
left on in the sky for child Earth -

last word on Night’s black page;
printing Sun’s lifeless blueprint,

her heartless pressed flower,
as our body makes bearable

God’s light - so transfigured,
we can look upon ourselves.


It is the Moon’s word
hung in black silence.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The word Grace

The word Grace

In the loveless company of stars,
reading of the Human Genome,
twinkling map of organic existence -

of kinship with the dark leaf
crying silver in my brother palm,
owl hooting his nocturnal love -

stuttering mouse, nervous at nut supper,
rheumatic tree cracking bulging knuckles,
skewering the fat yellow buttermoon -

honeysuckle sugar polluting
the blue ghost of evening;
moths bumping plumply into light -

thinking of the Word
calling all life
from chemicals and love -

everything alive,
from the same trinity of letters,
this simple holy script,

I hunted my language archive -
like a smoker, restless at midnight,
turning out sofas, dusty drawers,

old unworn clothes, dead and stiff;
desperate for just the right thing -
rifling the Contemporary Section,

Popular Idiom, Vernacular;
neat boxes of Metaphor -
shimmering, spilling shelves of Simile -

onward to the Science Department’s
rusty hinges, ignoring the need for ID,
warning signs for trespassers, ignoramuses,

to Chemistry’s mysterious incandscent symbols,
Biology’s volatile Latin -
through History’s shifting, creaking doors -

at last, wandering through Elegy,
the shining halls of Poetry -
built of silver bones and fundamental music -

sparkling dictionaries of Wonder,
luminescent Myth and Legend -
whispering polished figures like gold statues,

until a gas-lit room, mellow, wood-panelled,
smelling of bees and apples -
there a clutch of Old Fashioned Words

like threatened birds’ eggs
in a mahogany, Victorian windowed box;
and there it was, suddenly -

so shining still, no wonder it is holy;
under time-embroidered cobwebs,
silver yet, though dimmed with age -

‘GRACE’.

I cupped the word in both palms,
holding its calm golden light
like a dying September leaf -

dusted it down, tenderly,
polishing the word with my lips,
slotting it home in my heart

like a compatible disk –
shivering, whirring upload
as it was read - exactly, perfectly;

spreading through me like centuries
of matured autumn light, dimly
speckled with sparkling dust-stars,

low humming sounds of bee spirituals -
weary honey workers returning home,
worn, through a rusty gold evening.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Darwing

‘...Coy Nature….Took sanctuary like Daphne in a tree./ There Daphnes lover stop’t, and thought it much/ The very Leaves of her to touch,/ But Harvey our Apollo, stopt not so,/ Into the Bark, and root he after her did goe:/ No smallest Fibres of a Plant,/ For which the eiebeams Point doth sharpness want,/ His passage after her withstood./ What should she do? through all the moving wood/ Of Lives indow’d with sense she took her flight,/ Harvey persues, and keeps her still in sight./ But as the Deer long-hunted takes a flood,/ She leap’t at last into the winding streams of blood;/ Of mans Meander all the Purple reaches made,/ Till at the heart she stay’d/…Here sure shall I be safe (said she)/ None will be able sure to see/ This my retreat, but only He/ Who made both it and me./ The heart of Man, what Art can e’re reveal?/…but e’re she was aware,/ Harvey was with her there,/ And held this slipperyProteus in a chain,/ Till all her mighty Mysteries she descry’d,/ Which from his wit the attempt before to hide/ Was the first Thing that Nature did in vain.// He the young Practise of New Life did see,/…Before the untaught Heart began to beat/ The tuneful March to vital Heat,/ From all the Souls that living Buildings rear,/ Whether imply’d for Earth, or Sea, or Air,/ Whether it in the Womb or Egg be wrought,/ A strict account to him is hourly brought,/ How the Great Fabrick does proceed,/ What time and what materials it does need/…Thus Harvey sought for Truth in Truth’s own Book/ The Creatures, which by God himself was writ;/ And wisely thought ‘twas fit,/ Not to read Comments only upon it,/ But on th’original it self to look./ Methinks in Arts great circle others stand/ Lock’t up together, Hand in Hand,/ Every one leads as he is led,/ The same bare path they tread,/ A Dance like Fairies a Fantastick round,/ But neither change their motion, nor their ground…’ Abraham Cowley, 1618-67, Ode upon Dr Harvey

‘…I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect’; of this history we possess the last volume alone…Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines. Each word of the slowly changing language, in which history is supposed to be written, being more of less different in the interrupted succession of chapters, may represent the apparently abruptly changed forms of life entombed in our consecutive, but widely separated formations.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘We are confirming Darwin - it's great to be getting the molecular correlates of what Darwin hypothesised 150 years ago.’ Sir John Sulston, Leader, UK Human Genome Project

Darwing

Darwin of course became an angel
called, fittingly, Darwing - shining

because he wept in the very darkness
he thought he had made - thinking

he had put out this ancient holy light,
proved God Himself out of existence -

invisible in his own scheme;
but searching for God still

like an eye in the darkness
that would not re-open -

knowing he was right -
feeling the unity of life,

but creating physical visions
where the old God of the day,

men had moulded, cast,
could not, would not, fit.

But feeling Him prickle still in the dark,
agnostic before the word was invented -

sensing betrayal and unease of so many,
not least his own wife, for God’s sake -

so, on revelation of the Human Genome,
of course there was a party up in Heaven

at the unexpected marriage
of science and religion -

all these unhappy holy scientists,
James Clerk Maxwell, Einstein -

many others, drunk on vintage nectar,
stuffing grinning faces with ambrosia.

And Darwing swooping, whooping overhead,
dazzling white like an enormous crazy swan.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Nature, sprung improbably

‘In this one of all fields I know the best/ All day and night, hoarse and melodious, sounded/ a creeping corncrake, coloured like the ground,/ till the cats got him and gave the rough air rest….// -Summer now is diminished, is less by him./ Something that it could say cannot be spoken – As though the language of a subtle folk/ Had lost a word that had no synonym.’ Norman MacCaig, A Voice of Summer

‘To make the natural world safe for physics, Decartes pushed consciousness right out of it into a separate spiritual world, treating each soul or mind as a spiritual substance, made of a stuff alien to other earthly items... But it seems increasingly clear that one extreme view is not more workable than the other. Materialism and idealism are equally the products of dualism.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Nature, sprung improbably

Nature, sprung improbably
from mystery of the Word,

stardust molecules - light
and water, will burst into

green stars on trees,
human hands, bats;

butterflies, flowers,
wings, flying fish.

But her deeper magic -
written at the beginning,

is maintained, still irreducible;
principle of stark complexity –

RNA the big magic, original
rabbit from a Universal hat -

bridging the holy code
with art and chemistry,

understanding of production;
conducting free range matter,

as only our own mysterious
unproved soul understands -

wiring of Heaven and Earth -
metaphor, story, truth, as one.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Without the Word - nothing

‘…several classes of facts…seem to me to proclaim so plainly, that the innumerable species, genera, and families of organic beings, with which this world is peopled, have all descended, each with its own class or group, from common parents.’ Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1859

‘Why we are not like ET - Samples of DNA taken from humans, animals, plants, microbes and viruses have one thing in common: they form a double helix structure held together by four different chemicals called bases. And scientists from New Zealand and Sweden have now built a computer model to show that organisms are unlikely to evolve if their "life code" is written using more or fewer bases. The work could help our understanding of what to expect from alien lifeforms - if we ever come across them. Reading along the double helix, the sequence of the bases can be read off as a genetic code made of four letters - A for adenine, C for cytosine, G for guanine and T for thymine. This code carries the instructions for creating and maintaining life, but why not use two letters, or six or eight? ET in the famous Spielberg film was said to have six-base DNA and, on the face of it, Earth-bound life could have, too. The reason why not turns out to be in the way a prehistoric relative of DNA began to protect itself against copying errors. Paul Gardner, and colleagues…used a computer model to try to explain why four turned out to be the magic number. It is not entirely clear how life first began on Earth, but many biologists believe that before our current DNA-dominated world, there was an environment known as RNA World. RNA is a similar chemical to DNA but it is much less stable and so much less suitable for holding the blueprint information for building complex organisms. Supporters of the RNA World theory believe that RNA evolved from simpler chemicals and only later evolved into DNA. RNA would have existed in a constantly changing and reactive soup. Gardner and his colleagues built a computer model…to examine how RNA might have developed had it had two, six or eight bases, as well as the standard four. They found that four- and six-base RNA molecules were the most efficient at evolving into DNA. But four-base RNAs were the ones which were best suited to overcoming RNA's fundamental weakness: its susceptibility to making errors as it copies itself. The two- and eight-base RNAs seem to get stuck somewhere along the evolution process... But six-base RNAs could have survived if they had evolved a way of putting right the errors introduced by mutation. The research poses the question of what kind of DNA extra-terrestrial life might have if a similar process of evolution had taken place on a similar planet elsewhere in the Universe. "We found the margins between four- and six-letter alphabets to be low, so a percentage of independent lifeforms might incorporate six, or a different four. "But it is likely that the same principles that life on Earth are based on will be used elsewhere," Gardner said. If RNA-based lifeforms on other planets had developed the error-correcting techniques needed to repair the damage to their genetic code caused by mutation and degeneration, they may well have developed into something with six-base DNA. "I'd love to meet an organism with a six-letter alphabet. However, they'd probably take a lot longer to sequence," he said.’ Ivan Noble, BBC News Online, 2003

Without the Word - nothing

Without the Word, nothing
coming among uncultured

stars, under a dusty white Moon -
just stone bones adorning night’s

black charnel-house, silver
graves of collapsing matter.

In the whole Galaxy - Earth
heard, turning blue as an eye,

in the blink of aeons, marshalling
her creatures, her flowers, leaves,

from dreaming amoebae in the heart
of water; hearing the possible poems,

composing them in earth and light
metamorphosed into cells; skeleton,

flesh and wing, all her organic poetry -
laboured from the musical molecules.

Friday, 13 June 2008

‘LUCA’ – Last Universal Common Ancestor

‘Curiously, although his theory emphasized male-female distinctions, his description in the Origin always placed the primordial ancestor, or ‘the ancient progenitor’ outside, or previous to, gender or sexed system; an ‘it’, never a ‘he’ or ‘she’. Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988

‘Back before the dinosaurs, before the first fishes, before the first worms, before the first plants, before the first fungi, before the first bacteria, there was an RNA world - probably somewhere around four billion years ago, soon after the beginning of planet earth’s very existence and when the universe itsef was only 10 billion years old. We do not know what these ribo-organisms looked like. We can only guess at what they did for a living, chemically speaking. We do not what came before them. We can be pretty sure they once existed because of clues to RNA’s role that survive in living organisms today. These ribo-organisms had a big problem. RNA is an unstable susbstance which falls apart within hours. Had these organisms ventured anywhere hot or tried to grow too large they would have faced what geneticists call an error catastrophe – a rapid decay of the message in their genes. One of them invented by trial and error a new and tougher version of RNA called DNA and a system for making RNA copies from it, including a machine we’ll call the proto-ribosome. It had to work fast and it had to be accurate. So it stiched together genetic copies three letters at a time, the better to be fast and accurate. Each threesome came flagged with a tag to make it easier for the proto-ribosome to find, a tag made of amino acid. Much later, those tags themselves became joined togther to make proteins and the three letter word became a form of code for the proteins – the genetic code itself. (Hence, to this day the code consists of three letter words each spelling out a particular one of twenty amino acids as part of a recipe for a protein.) And so was born a more sophisticated creature that stores its genetic recipe in its DNA, made its working machines of protein and used RNA to bridge the gap between them. Her name was LUCA – the Last Universal Common Ancestor.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘Last year has also witnessed the unveiling of the first molecular map of the ribosome, the cell's protein factory. This has given us startling new details about its structure and may boost support for RNA (ribonucleic acid) being the first "living" molecule on Earth.’ BBC Online


‘LUCA’ – Last Universal Common Ancestor

Even before DNA - RNA -
unstable, sucking more life

from the inchoate chemical world -
defining in the blurred creative soup

of transient genes, urging
to be, replicate - just stay.

Becoming ‘organic copier’;
stitcher, cutter and paster -

translator, builder, joiner,
fixer, connector - bridge.

Keeping itself patterned in DNA,
drawing order into possible life -

hearing the Word four billion years ago
in swimming silence, dim interpretation

of the frustrating invisibility of God -
call for creativity as a first principle;

making its own skeleton for us all,
boneless - yet imagined or dreamt.


Ur-gene, first gene; prettily named LUCA,
the ‘Last Universal Common Ancestor’ -

author of the code, writer of the three letter
words holding us in existence; maintaining

our fleshy shell, transforming wet molecules
to scaffold bone; metamorphosing chemistry

that wrote gold barley’s whiskered ear -
heaven-colour of blurred hummingbird,

shining armour of the patent beetle –
owl eye, eagle wing; old melancholy

hunchback sunflower studying earth.
The bridge translating coded stores -

DNA copied into RNA; reading the words,
translating into protein - building limb, fin,

finger, leaf; still reading ourselves,
making ourselves from glued code -

billion upon billion years rehearsing,
but never tiring, becoming dispirited;

like LUCA herself,
who wanted to be -

as earless leaves cramped
unborn within the branch

hear spring and sun.
As space and stars,

heard the Word,
dreamt of Earth.

LUCA not one, but many;
fountain of species, flood,

still printed in our word
with the worm and fish -

tree, bird -
water, star.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

RNA

‘RNA was the Word. RNA left behind five little clues to its priority over both protein and DNA. Even today, the ingredients of DNA are made by modifying the indredients of RNA, not by a more direct route. Also DNA’s letter Ts are made from RNA’s letter Us. Many modern enzymes, though made of protein, rely on small molecules of RNA to make them work. Moreover, RNA, unlike DNA and protein, can copy itself without assistance: give it the right ingredients and it will stitch them together into a message. Wherever you look in the cell, the most primitive and basic functions require the presence of RNA. It is an RNA-dependent enzyme that takes the message, made of RNA, from the gene. It is an RNA-containg machine, the ribosome, that translates that message, and it is a little RNA molecule that fetches and carries the amino acids for the translation of the gene’s message. But above all, RNA - unlike DNA - can act as a catalyst, breaking up and joining other molecules including RNAs themselves. It can cut them up, join the ends together, make some of its own building blocks, and elongate a chain of RNA. It can even operate on itself, cutting out a chunck of text and splicing the free ends together again. The discovery of these remarkable properties of RNA in the early 1980s… transformed our understanding of the origin of life. It now seems probable that the very first gene, the ‘ur-gene’, was a combined replicator-catalyst, a word that consumed the chemicals around it to duplicate itself. It may well have been made of RNA.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘During the dearth and lack of those two thousand/ million years of death, one wishes primarily/ Just to grasp tightly, to compose, to circle,/ To link and fasten skilfully, as one/ Crusty grey bryozoan builds upon another,/ To be anything particular…To become godlike with transformation.’ Pattian Rogers, The Voice of the Precambrian Sea

‘Henceforth, for the animate, to last was to mean to change,/ existing both for one’s own sake, and that of all others,/ forever in jeopardy.’ WH Auden, 1907-1973, Unpredictable but Providential

‘The DNA makes a simpler molecule called RNA which interacts with ribosomes which churn out proteins based on the code in the genome. Some proteins then interact with a structure called the Golgi complex, which inspects packages and labels proteins before handing them over for distribution elsewhere in the cell.’ BBC, 2003

‘It is the classic case of chicken and egg: which came first, DNA or protein? It cannot have been DNA, because DNA is a helpless passive piece of mathematics, which catalyses no chemical reactions. It cannot have been protein, because protein is pure chemistry with no known way of copying itself accurately. It seems impossible either that DNA invented protein or vice versa. This might have remained a baffling and strange condundrum had not the word left a trace of itself faintly drawn on the filament of life. Just as we know now that eggs came long before chickens (the reptilian ancestors of all birds laid eggs), so there is growing evidence that RNA came before proteins. RNA is a chemical substance that links the two worlds of DNA and protein. It is used mainly in the translation of the message from the alphabet of DNA to the alphabet of proteins. But in the way it behaves, it leaves little doubt that it is the ancestor of both. RNA was Greece to DNA’s Rome: Homer to her Virgil.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000


RNA

Chemical Word -
spirit of life incarnate

in nascent chemistry -
guddling among Elements;

such light upon the water,
which will knit beams -

muscular feel of current,
into verdant dreams -

into molecular flesh,
swarming real green.


Print of the Word -
enshrined, infinite

while Earth lives.
Still star-sailing

whispering anywhere again -
hot rocks, mountains, water;

something found
out of darkness.


Communication of the Word,
translator of idea into flesh -

organic root; earth-nub;
realisation of the Word.


Active Principle of the Word -
original messenger, Olympian

bearing creativity;
life’s viral fires.


First Art of Chemistry -
first artist of the Word;

understanding desire
to be, to make, create,

for no reason but life,
expression and being.

Breaking - stitching
swarming molecules;

feeling something possible
will come into existence -

cradling one wet cell
dreaming of the flower

when no flower will be
for three billion years.


Why are men afraid to shout
these fabulous Earth miracles,

such shining, unlikely principles -
from mud and light will come us all.


RNA - understanding molecular creativity,
organic artistry, unextinguishable by time -

composer, conductor of chemicals
dreaming in water - such journey

to the white Poles, deserts, mountains,
from her bowl, sea-womb, light-seed -

spectacular travel to wing and eye,
breathing under still water, hooking

possibility from dark atoms of nothing;
connecting with star vibrations - dust.

Learner, teacher, catalysing knowledge;-
the Word driving a fantastic chemistry.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Your Hands are Stars

‘In a sense, human flesh is made of stardust.’ Nigel Calder, the Key to the Universe, BBC, 1977

Your Hands are Stars

Your hands are stars -
bright space molecules

fallen through this Universe
for black billenia. In darkness,

see they shine - learned dust-flesh;
spun white skeleton, light calcified.

Trees are alight with damp green stars,
leaf bones fragile as a mouse’s hand -

are sucking rain, sun,
from Earth’s wet halo.

When you touch me at night -
two silver prints like starfish.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

RNA

GENETIC TRANSCRIPTION & TRANSLATION

‘To continue the linguistic, information-theory metaphor within which genetic theory was now to be formulated, the directed synthesis of RNA on DNA was termed transcription, and the synthesis of protein on the RNA was translation.’ Steven Rose, Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism, 1997

‘TRANSCRIPTION - The cell makes a copy of the gene whose message is to be interpreted. The copy is made of RNA, ribonucleic acid, a chemical similar to DNA. RNA has a different sugar in its sugar-phosphate backbone and is usually a single-stranded molecule. And wherever there is a T in DNA, there will be a U in RNA, also pairing with A. The enzyme that carries out this process of copying is called RNA polymerase. It can recognise the 'start here' and 'stop here' signals that appear in the DNA code, and catalyse the formation of an RNA molecule using bases, sugars and phosphate molecules from the nucleus. The RNA molecule created is called messenger RNA (mRNA) because it is responsible for carrying the message from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, the outer part of the cell, where the code in the mRNA will be translated into protein. The mRNA passes through the pores in the nuclear membrane, and makes its way to the part of the cell where proteins are made, called the rough endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Called 'rough' ER because, under the microscope, it has a bumpy, blobby appearance. The 'blobby' structures are ribosomes - the factories of the cell. Inside each ribosome are three different types of RNA molecule, called ribosomal RNA (rRNA).’ Yourgenome.org

‘TRANSLATION - Ribosomal RNA is responsible for translation, in which the mRNA code is used to create a protein molecule. The mRNA message is 'read' in groups of three bases at a time. Each group of three bases is called a triplet, or 'codon'. There are 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 possible codons, or combinations of three bases. Most of the codons correspond to a specific building block of protein - an amino acid. Many of the amino acids have more than one triplet coding for them. Because there are more codons (64) than there are amino acids (20), the code is described as 'degenerate'. Three of the possible codons don't actually code for an amino acid; instead they indicate 'stop' signals. One codon (ATG - for methionine) is the 'start' signal for proteins. It is down to another RNA molecule, called transfer RNA (tRNA). Unfolded tRNA is roughly the same shape as a clover leaf. At one end of the 'leaf', are three crucial bases. These bases are called an 'anticodon' and are complementary to one of the codons on the mRNA molecule. When two bases will bind to each other, they are said to be complementary – the base A always binds to T, or (U in RNA) and C always binds to G. For the triplet GUC, the complementary codon would be CAG. These two codons would bind firmly together, with hydrogen bonds forming between each of the complementary bases. Each tRNA molecule becomes attached specifically to one of the 20 amino acids. As the protein is being formed, each codon on the mRNA molecule is read, one at a time. For each codon, the tRNA molecule with the complementary anticodon temporarily binds to the mRNA. The amino acid that is joined to the end of the tRNA molecule is brought in line with the growing polypeptide chain, and the amino acid links to the end of that chain. The tRNA disengages from the mRNA molecule, and the next codon on the mRNA molecule is available to be 'read'. The appropriate tRNA molecule is again joined to the mRNA molecule, and its amino acid joined to the polypeptide chain. The process of making a protein is called translation and is very similar to translating from one language to another - in this case from the four-letter language of DNA (interpreting all the full stops and starts of 'sentences') into the 20-letter language of proteins. ‘ Yourgenome.org

‘Developmental biologists can observe genomic activiation taking place, more or less directly. For example, RNA contains the base known as uracil, whereas DNA contains thymine instead. If you add radioactive-labelled uracil to young embryos in culture you can see at that stage they start to incorporate it. They incorporate the uracil only when they start to make RNA – which, of course, signals the start of transcription.’ Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, Mammals Cloned, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘Let/ there be/ amino acids,/ and there were: a slop/ of molecules in ancient seas,/ building cell walls to keep their/ distance, dividing, replicating, starting, to diversify, one growing oars, one rotors, one/ a wiry tail,/ lumping into clusters…’


RNA

‘Stellar dust has settled./ It is green underwater now in the leaves/ of the yellow crowfoot. Its potentialities/ Are gathered together under pine litter/ As emerging flower of the pink arbutus./ It has gained the power to make itself again/ In the bone-filled egg of osprey and teal.’ Pattian Rogers, The Origin of Order

‘In the beginning was the word. The word was not DNA. That came afterwards, when life was already established, and when it had divided the labour between two separate activities: chemical work and information storage, metabolism and replication. But DNA contains a record of the Word, faithfully transmitted through all subsequent aeons to the astonishing present…On the long arm of chromosome 1… if you read it carefully, there is a sequence of 120 letters - As Cs Gs Ts – that repeats over and over again. Between each repeat there lies a stretch of more random text, but the 120-letter paragraph keeps coming back like a familiar theme tune, in all more than 100 times. This short paragraph is perhaps as close as we can get to an echo of the original Word. This ‘paragraph’ is a small gene, probably the single most active gene in the human body. Its 120 letters are constantly being coped into a short filament of RNA. The copy is known as 5S RNA.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000


RNA

The word calling order -
being, instruments of life,

from malleable molecules,
colossal fires of existence;

atomic principles of freedom,
chaos. From spreading stars -

light and water -
green and blood;

simple amoeba heart
coagulating into fish,

a flower coming
to earth and light,

as decorative fulfilment,
wording of early script -

leaves, eyes, animal thud,
heavy on the written Earth;

evolved organic transcripts,
born in the first black belly.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Some Ingenious Gene Words for Growing Body Parts

Some Ingenious Gene Words for Growing Body Parts:

Eyeless,
branchless,
radical fringe;

serpent,
engrailed,

sonic hedgehog -
pax, gap, even-skipped.

Fushi tarazu,
hunchback,
giant, knirps,

windbeutel,
cactus,
gurken,
tailless.

Porcupine -
Indian hedgehog,
desert hedgehog,
tiggiwinkle,

warthog, groundhog.

Shortarm1a, shortarm1b,
TINYTINYBRAIN.01,
SMALLBRAIN1.
STOMP.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Listen again

‘It turns out we can shoot the shit all night, stein after Stein, anecdote on anecdote, until the first light swarms over the water like thistledown on fire. Then the fog disappears which is, of course, the day clearing its throat for speech.’ Albert Goldbarth

Listen again

Listen; crippled trees are speaking
to a dishevelled Moon and wind -

green voices in groaning night -
tincture of animal, haunted man,

weird language of werewolves,
nymph-whispering - mermaid,

siren singing - some old dark tongue
we can almost comprehend, process.

We have recognised before, tree language;
leaf, limbs, faces - torsos, wrists, fingers -

known spirit-housing, at dark alone
in foot-muffled wood, among moss,

probable goblins, loss of possible creatures
of light - appealing brotherhood, praying

to good trees, as living repositories of kindness,
patience, for safe passage. Inarticulate murmurs,

understood when we did not know their word;
likewise bird, primate - but deaf to the mouse,

humble worm turning under leaves -
word of them speaking our language,

written in the ancient letters -
holy silence of skin, leaf, fur.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Naturally occurring antisense transcripts

‘An increasing number of eukaryotic genes are being found to have naturally occurring antisense transcripts. Here we study the extent of antisense transcription in the human genome by analyzing the public databases of expressed sequences using a set of computational tools designed to identify sense-antisense transcriptional units on opposite DNA strands of the same genomic locus. The resulting data set of 2,667 sense-antisense pairs was evaluated by microarrays containing strand-specific oligonucleotide probes derived from the region of overlap. Verification of specific cases by northern blot analysis with strand-specific riboprobes proved transcription from both DNA strands. We conclude that 60% of this data set, or 1,600 predicted sense-antisense transcriptional units, are transcribed from both DNA strands. This indicates that the occurrence of antisense transcription, usually regarded as infrequent, is a very common phenomenon in the human genome. Therefore, antisense modulation of gene expression in human cells may be a common regulatory mechanism.’ Nature, 2003

Naturally occurring antisense transcripts

I can think of several human beings
displaying the effects of anti-sense

modulation in their expressions;
what’s next - the mechanisms

for non-sense - the genes for talking crap?
Might I suggest a few experimental models

among the general population to detect,
and study the Parlo-crapus gene family.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Science and religion are married in the Genome (1)

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it…’ John 1, The Bible

‘In the beginning was the Word. The Word proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever – the Word discovered how to rearrange chemicals so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live – the Word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise. The Word eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain that could discover and become aware of the Word itself.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000

‘But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze/ By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags/ Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,/ which image in their bulk both lakes and shores/ And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear/ The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible/ Of that evernal language, which thy God/ Utters, who from eternity doth teach/ Himself in all, and all things in himself./ Great universal teacher! he shall mould/ Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frost at Midnight, 1798

‘In our culture at present, people find it somewhat surprising that an idea can be large enough to have both a scientific and a religious aspect. This is because, during the last century, our ideas of religion, of science, and indeed of life have all become narrowed in a way that makes it difficult to get these topics into the same perspective. (Here our window has become a good deal narrower that it was when Galileo and Newton and Faraday used it. They never doubted these things belonged together).’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, 2003

‘Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. The sources of this feeling, however, spring from the sphere of religion.’ Einstein, Science and Religion, Nature, 1940

‘In the beginning was the word.’ John 1, The Bible


Science and religion are married in the Genome (1)

The Bible: ‘In the beginning was the Word’.
21st Century Science: ‘In the beginning was the word’.

Science and religion are married in the Genome.
Like lovers estranged, enemies, they have hated;

boxers in corners, belligerent generals,
scrapping footsoldiers, irreconcilable -

God hunted from existence by easier truths,
squeezed from vision - unsettlingly inexact,

inhabiting feeling and imagination -
not something you can put on a slide;

prove - though love is the greatest power -
human citadel, force, undying heart flower,

yet cannot be discerned, detected, counted,
by microscope or scan - chemical or sight.

And who had made them enemies but men,
whose minds compartmentalise, reduce -

screens and firewalls of the panicked mind;
even as the heart shouts loudly in the chest,

the soul exerts its own existence, simply -
as presence; burning with their own truths,

contribution to the bigger understanding.
Even this soul man feels inside his skin -

witnessed more clearly in any eye than lens
or cell, stolen, because it has no woven fibre;

white, silken - carbon-dated to the age of God -
when maybe tools to find such energy and light,

bright root of love and consciousness, its power,
may not yet be invented, nor even yet imagined.

As the shifting Genome sparkled still, millennia
in darkness, first root of flesh, and no-one saw -

chemicals and energy; biology, light, life,
have always been the living heart of God,

Who said everything so simply;
He is Word and Life - is Love.

And all our picky labels, selective views and fights,
have never changed a molecule, a string of DNA –

a feather is neither thing of beauty, nor object of cells,
ornament or aerodynamic calculation, but all at once -

that is its glory, whole identity; reduction is not enough
to represent - picture vividly - reality’s brilliant bones -

the whole of Botany has never yet understood a flower
more perfectly than an eye, more completely than a bee.

But love of beauty grows with wonder at such structure;
processes of photosynthesis - chemicals, sugar and light,

that make the flower be, unravelling her millennia of mysteries.
Embryology is art, to be studied, like Michelangelo, enraptured.

We made this battle by ourselves - opposition, dichotomy, war -
excised the heart of science, put a stone where once passion beat;

curtailed God’s nature, meaning of His name and words -
chose ourselves what was, or was not Him, or His domain;

because we did not understand, becoming cleverer -
that big thinking, scope, perspective, grander vision,

still exist when fractured chemistry and medicine,
fabulous astronomy and physics, solve, decipher,

hook some shining elements of knowledge,
so beautifully in symbols, theories, rules -

we are looking at a sliver cut, but a sample from one
vast picture not amenable to such selective thought -

creating partial blindness by a narrow focus - but
feeling confident to name, imprison God in words;

man-made bonds, strictures, boundaries of meaning -
thus allowing men to call the tune, re-make the dance,

that once, we realise, was free; music heard
by Earth and all her jostling creatures, even

to the last green leaf - skin molecule -
converting light, orchestrating atoms;

even if we did not recognise the notes within the tune -
understand from where such strange sound might come.


Ignorance is not bliss:
knowledge is heaven -

to read the illuminated script of a butterfly wing -
burning stripes and coals of tiger and leopard-fur;

unholy, blunt mushroom finger nudging darkness,
natural brass of the golden eagle feather - yellow

light at the sunflower’s black heart,
snow in the slow fur of Polar Bears -

is to see beauty’s shining skeleton, her plastic face -
understanding the means of stunning Earth chemistry.


The Human Genome still shines, her magic retained,
now shivering - exposed in the chill extracting palm

of science; wonder stronger, more intensified,
seeing these words revealed that are the poem

of us, of all that live upon the Earth, or ever have;
or will, in the branching future of organic family -

Time’s hair’s-breadth splitting between water
and earth - worm, fish, mammal, flower, man.


Truth is essential to God and Science;
God and what science studies are one.

Truth is not singular vision;
will not be encompassed -

simplified, stripped of its bigger,
closer, messier, blurred meaning -

and of all ironies, science is so far the greatest proof,
if proof be ever possible – desirable - that God exists.

Monday, 2 June 2008

We are the Word

‘Heredity is a modifiable stored programme; metabolism a universal machine. The recipe that links them is a code, an abstract message that can be embodied in a chemical, physical or even immaterial form. Its secret is that it can cause itself to be replicated. Anything that can use the resources of the world to get copies of itself made is alive; the most likely form for such a things to take is a digital message – a number, a script or a word.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000


We are the Word -

We are the Word -
poems called forth

from the mouth and hand
of black-masked nothing;

as stars shining somewhere -
existing invisibly behind light.


We are poems spoken

We are composed poems spoken
by the opening mouth of life -

the Alpha of star roots as mysterious
as imagined silence of stellar Omega.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Like illuminated manuscripts

Like illuminated manuscripts

Words fill us,
create, are us -

like illuminated manuscripts,
written brilliantly in time -

our detail and colour,
elaborately painted -

ornate with organic life;
gilded with some light

of different material,
decoration of spirals;

so few pages ever open -
displayed under eye-glass.

*
God is a writer -
life the printer.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

I am a story telling myself

‘Believe it or not, the Harry Potter stories aren't the only highly anticipated series being published these days. On page 865 of this issue, you can find the third instalment in another such series - the book of human genes. This book is being produced by thousands of people around the globe.’ Nature, 2001

I am a story telling myself

I am a story telling myself.
Chapters of hand and eye,

to last syllables of hair -
reading, speaking aloud,

expressing chemicals
as iris flower, laughter

lines printing my ancient,
re-born face; figured thus

from the very start of things -
the elaborate wording of stars

blown from the mouth of God;
His ideas lurking in blackness.

*

We are books,
still opening -

being read -
and writing.

Books for others
to open, crease

and read -
understand.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Life is a script forever reading

‘It is these chromosomes… that contain in some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the individual’s future development and of its functioning in the mature state.’ Erwin Schrodinger, Physicist, 1943

‘The key image… is that of a species’ genes as a detailed description of the collection of environments in which its ancestors lived…The genes of a species can be thought of as a description of ancestral worlds, a ‘Genetic Book of the Dead.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes, The Bible

‘The genetic code was cracked in the 1960s, when Marshall Nirenberg, Har Khorana, and Severo Ochoa figured out that three letters of DNA encodes a particular amino acid. A three-letter word made of four possible letters could have more than enough permutations to encode the 20 amino acids.’ BBC Science

‘But Darwin had invented a new concept, and ‘everyone’ did not know how to read it, as metaphor or as force.’ Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species, 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988

‘The genome that we decipher in this generation is but a snapshot of an ever-changing document. There is no definitive edition.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000


Life is a script forever reading

Life is a script -
forever reading,

being read;
adapting -

revising, growing,
shifting, changing.

New lines and chapters
recited in each eye, hair,

complex interaction amid
Time’s enormous pages -

light sampled, as blood
identity, original energy,

life’s brilliant fuel
for any conversion -

sound of a heart,
sound of a wave,

written on Earth’s
stil evolving score.

One brush with a flower,
weary bumping bee fatly

transporting showered pollen
to the passing human sleeve -

altering the unseen masterwork;
sight of one unexpected bloom

might cause a man to declare his love
for a waiting woman - make children,

delete some murderous lines
in the dark chapter of a head.

Our script so linked and curlicued,
we are at dance with everything -

spoken and unspoken,
in the earthly theatre -

original arena -
restless with art;

every syllable mattering,
always work-in-progress.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

I am words in unformed dark

‘Although the inherited vocabulary is simple its message is very long. Each cell in the body contains about six feet of DNA…if all the DNA in all the cells in a single human being were stretched out, it would stretch to the moon and back eight thousand times. There is now a scheme, the Human Genome Project, to read the whole of these three thousand million letters and to publish what may be the most boring book ever written.’ Steve Jones, The Language of the Genes, HarperCollins, 1993

‘When the Human Genome Project was launched in 1990, decoding the ‘book of life’ was a controversial and far-off goal. But now, with the announcement on 26 June that 90 per cent of the human genome - the ‘working draft’ - is in the public databases, the main chapters of the book have been deciphered. Not a bedtime read maybe, but the first draft of the human genome sequence gives researchers access to the most invaluable medical reference book. For the next three years, the Human Genome Project will tackle an even more challenging task - filling in the missing paragraphs and rigorously checking the spelling and grammar to produce the final ‘gold standard’ sequence.’ Wellcome Trust, UK

I am words in unformed dark

I am words in unformed dark,
my letter-flesh as yet unborn -

but my last fingernail half-moon
already brittle; bright white fossil

scratching behind clouds of time,
like a cat at the right closed door.

‘The Word became flesh…’ John 1, The Bible

The Word is the answer

The Word is the answer;
bridge, conductor, key -

between nothing
and life; invisible,

without molecule,
known dimension -

singular concept
now blossoming,

pre-rigged with being -
mysterious with matter.

Light even in darkness
glueing random atoms -

clustering the world
with chemical love.


We hear the page of the world opening

We hear the page of the world
opening at our time to print -

as seeds hear spring,
light in the darkness;

fumbling earth,
water touching.

Now is the time of growth -
our own organic expression;

being a flower among flowers -
the illumination of being alive.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

I am written in the hand of God

‘The human genome is a book - reading it carefully from beginning to end taking due account of anomlies like imprinting, a skilful technician could make a complete human body.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘We've now got to the point in human history where for the first time we are going to hold in our hands the set of instructions to make a human being. That is an incredible philosophical step forward, and will change, I think, the way we think of ourselves.’ Dr John Sulston, Head, UK Human Genome Project; Director, Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, UK


I am written in the hand of God

I am written in the hand of God,
the one language of all Creation;

as everything that lives is written;
over and over – in sand, charcoal,

copperplate, type; sketches sharpening
from blurred script - watery, indistinct,

to the intricate and exquisitely precise;
particular, high definition digital print

looming from the masterwork
as recognisable kind, species -

the organic poem of you or me,
maybe once a leaf - fern spore.

The Literary Trinity

‘[DNA] had first been isolated from the pus-soaked bandages of wounded soldiers…by a Swiss doctor named Friedrich Miescher. Miescher himself guessed that DNA might convey the hereditary messages ‘just as the words and concepts of all languages can find expression in 24-30 letters of the alphabet.’ But DNA had few fans; it was known to be a comparatively monotonous substance: how could it convey a message in just four varieties.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

“Each of the 30,000-100,000 genes is like a verse of the bible.” UK Scientist

The Literary Trinity

The Literary Trinity -
three letters forever

spelling life’s simple words;
from the magical incantation

of eyes - called from the workings
of light, yet coded under darkness;

psalm of the hand sung
as bone-star, blood-leaf.

Rhyming egg-shelled wing with sky,
dreaming man, feather mechanism -

all Earth’s products and volumes;
holy script writing sea into blood,

light into green, blue into water,
water into fish - tree, bird, man;

infinite literature of chemistry -
improbable art of the Universe.

*

I am written in the same three-letter
words as everything else alive –

my family inhabits Earth;
in their skin, fur - green.

*

The Word speaks
in the darkness -

poems come -
alchemising life

from love, letters -
intelligent chemicals.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Rehearsing the Rose

‘In fact, our code is a sort of evolutionary history book.’ Transcript, Newsnight, BBC TV


Rehearsing the Rose

All the mornings of the world
have dawned to write this rose,

ember of summer burning yet -
crying silver in her bed of earth.

In this polished morning
of motherness and garden,

love and light still evolving -
in the thousand million years

of my cultured heart:
the beating red rose.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

The Four Letters of LOVE

‘IMMORTAL LOVE!….Press drop to drop, to atom atom mind,/ Link sex to sex, or rivet mind to mind;/ Attend my song – With rosy lips rehearse,/ And with your polish’d arrows write my verse! -/ So shall my lines soft-rolling eyes engage/ And snow-white fingers turn the Volant page;/ The smiles of Beauty all my toils repay,/ And youths and virgins chant the living lay.’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Temple of Nature


The Four Letters of LOVE

Only ‘L,O,V,E’ was the clue
to such boundless simplicity -

just four humble letters
to carry our highest art;

to mean the best of us - cultured
prize flower of the human heart;

budding and seeded
even in terrible dark -

for darkness fades into light
where there is love present -

for love is light -
as the letters of us

are life: also
death’s seed.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Listen, the world is reading

“Despite the power of molecular genetics to reveal the hereditary essence of organisms, the large-scale aspects of evolution remain unexplained, including the origin of species… However, what is being recognised within these ‘sciences of complexity’, as studies of these highly diverse systems are called, is that there are characteristic types of order that emerge from the interactions of many different components… Order emerges out of chaos.’ Brian Goodwin, How the Leopard Changed its Spots, 1994

‘Life is just bytes and bytes of information.’ Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1995

‘REPLICATION AND TRANSCRIPTION: SHAPING THE LANDSCAPE OF THE GENOME – As the relationship between nuclear structure and function begins to unfold, a picture is emerging of a dynamic landscape that is centred on the two main processes that execute the regulated use and propagation of the genome. Rather than being subservient enzymatic activities, the replication and transcriptional machineries provide potent forces that organize the genome in three-dimensional nuclear space. Their activities provide opportunities for epigenetic changes that are required for differentiation and development. In addition, they impose physical constraints on the genome that might help to shape its evolution… The finding that most of the genome is transcribed indicates that transcription factories are principal focal points for the nuclear organization of the genome.’ Abstract, Nature, 2005

‘Darwin here and elsewhere, used metaphors from language and from history. Indeed, his reading in language theory and in the new ideas of comparative grammarians and etymologists gave him a thought-model at a crucial time in the precipitation of his theories….Darwin implies an imagined synchronicity between writing the record and being part of the experience…’ Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988


Listen, the world is reading

Listen, at the tremble of membraned
bone shell, skin drum sounding even

to shivering of dead stars; organic
instrument tuned to the chemical

dancing of all life – earth and green,
fur, scale, eyes, firing - the world is

reading itself; composing the poem
of night. At spiral roots of silence,

the moonstruck stone of midnight,
life’s fingerless Braille finds wings

already written – flower-furled, fist-
clenched, invisible as the imaginary

angels enveloped in night’s bright hollows;
plotting their twinkling chemistry in black

blank verse, among volumes of unwritten sky -
skeletal blue embroidered with sequenced stars;

biology’s lush imaginings, her riches,
fantasy beings encrypted in darkness -

the sealed egg dreaming flight - air,
feathers - wind and Sun mechanics.


Here on the numb concrete path,
ugly slug poetry sludging slow -

bluntly muscle-trudging earth; but
rhyming her sparkling silver train -

her unexpected beauties under the Moon;
O tiny, humble bride, low-born, of night -

who does not ever know such labour,
her connoisseurial horned sampling,

understanding of such matters,
will one day make her Mozart.


Under the feverish insistence of leaves,
genius trees scribbling on the horizon

hear manic buds, gagged by darkness;
hurting nubbed limb bones - arthritic

with unspoken leaves - pressured,
cramped thirsty for unknown sun;

come morning, they will burst out,
shrieking green - spring’s bunting

hung still damp, newborn to licking light -
even as the quiet creamy lambs, so cosily

asleep, grow Argonaut wool in warmer rays -
tune loony tails, milk-addict bleats, to original

season-song; the coiled siren-hand of spring
re-fingering, touching everything possible -

earth smiling, opening all her flower mouths,
wide sunshine vowels - sticky throat and eye

one on fused green consonants - wired straw
conducting the seed’s ancient poem, voicing

fresh prints of her non-existent, coded flower,
coaxed into summer’s warm presses; created

for culturing the sugar-worshipping bee
with seductive perfumes, nectar tears -

haloed drunkenly by his own gold wings,
but already translating the encrypted seed,

her living poem written from that first star –
through the belly of water, unadorned grass,

into honey, more and more bees and flowers;
enough to stock the whole world, given time.


Flying now is the moth who is the eyes
of an owl; painting himself for centuries

in the active galleries of DNA, cultivating
his mysterious choice in yellow eyes shut

among dowdy, blank scales; working
out blind eyes in a life of darkness -

glow-worms impersonate a shrunken galaxy
of dwarf stars; the signalling nebulae of love,

and folded in the mouth of night,
star-prickled maw of pale dawn -

noisy, blustering stanzas of wizardly
starling sheen - poised unconscious

before interpretation of the rainbow’s
dark word; their fractious peppering

as morning clears its slow white throat
of salmon cloud - dazzles stars asleep.

The robin will print his red genetic wound
in the garden, his burning feather metaphor

of bleeding heart - transfigured for millennia
through hooked scarlet molecules, in human

stories of his scripted blood; his look is a bright
black question - his eye, like a mouse, a starred

drop of liquid dark, wet miniature of night sky,
as raindrops seal fallen water, the Sun is a skin

over essential light. In a snowy garden he knows
he is the bird of Christmas - coyly acting a card.

Awakened air will whisper sparkling fly sentences,
irritating glitter-grammar circling, threading silvery

through the warm webs of summer - in rotting nooks,
the terrible bluebottle’s hellish iridescence read aloud

from beauty’s dark books, with the peacock-armoured
metal beetle, brilliant navy rook who gave all his music

for brains; and the stoned bumble-bee purring, slung
so low, but turning sick, sluggish on relentless sugar,

sweetness of flower love, its seductive floral sonnets,
drugged with perfume; always stumbling him home

on his clumsy way with pollen - translating his gold
burden to coagulant food-light, stolen we call honey.

The embroidering spider’s complex web verses,
her sticky silver geometry, will capture passing

winter breath to prick out with crystal consonants,
illuminated diagram, evidence of her home craft -

as song seen, natural score - art and maths
adorning the humblest corners of the world.


The startling white poem of the hunting owl
flashes, flutters my heart - savage apprentice

angel, earth emissary - silent through midnight’s
empty black screen, blurred flamenco wing-fans,

reading feathers to decoding eyes, in error,
as meteor-streaks, continuous hooked light -

breaking materials, organic molecules,
to invisibility, non-illusory elements -

sharing that single held note of mercury water-
skin, seen perfectly by round-eyed, mute Moon;

spooky silver spinster - trowelled with borrowed
light, crazed with jealousy for the green and blue;

soprano stars her choir - screeching high C’s -
calling desperate through the dry seas of space.


I remember the fur of winter hare and snow,
Polar Bear, are but one muffled white sound;

my quiet red heart, dredging,
mistakes itself for sister rose -

ancestor reading love slowly
as muscled petals opening -

we are fingers and leaves,
dark eyes converting light

into blood, flesh, flower;
cycling energy and dust

from invisible impulses
of life - DNA’s passion.


Everything speaks the language of me -
music of my bones that once were stars,

poetry of my wings which have crumbled
into longing arms, sacrificed for fingers -

my eyes that were written from light,
that are the living blue flesh of light.

Everything that is, which lives, is written,
reads and writes, composes, dreams itself -

same dictionary, letters, language, words;
all fresh workings, literary embroideries

on a theme, but rich with identity, distinct;
one distinguishable print in the Universe –

one dreaming house of poetry in all time -
particular circumstance of written Earth.


Listen, under these shell vibrations,
the swimming blue word of Earth -

drummed song, chemical chorus -
one poem in the black auditorium

of space - among star, planetary silence -
rhyming trees and water, bee and flower;

mammal, grass, meat - animal, plant, light -
orchestrating oxygen; spelling green, colour,

from water’s bright heart -
skin, muscle, living glass,

from transparent coagulation,
glueing of poetry’s molecules

with light, struggle and hunger -
her communal root is deafening,

her moving zoo of creatures reading -
fur, scale, wing; finger, flight, vision,

from shifting formulae of species;
by agonising, incremental change -

speaking aloud in life, bio-diversity,
Evolution’s sublime organic poetry.


The Gypsy-green word of your eye
writes in the North-grey sea of mine;

where sequinned stars are pilot-lights,
sparks of that original blaze, burning

among nascent dust - our paper, all holy,
now smouldering; as new life brands, lit,

we express genetic truths, chemical stories,
biological legends - storytellers now bound

in Earth’s unfinished, living book, reciting -
flexing our blunt skin-and-bone fossil-wings,

raising mythical tails, opening palms as leaves;
our blood’s red word is translated water, world

element – encapsulation, warm metamorphosis
of ocean, plumbing our air-sailing boat of flesh;

my heart’s encrypted story, communal epic -
the centuries of love engraving my family’s

chapter, my own sprawling, vivid paragraph
writing over the present, combining tenses -

hooking my finger-bones with pterodactyls,
bats, passionflowers and fluttering shrews -

and among these polished trophies, honed
genetic bundles, my own cherished ghosts

strung - elaborately re-worked - their poems
passing to me, being me; word of them alive.


Listen - at dog-membrane tremble,
mountain garden-stones are crying

in abandoned rain, so unashamedly -
dazzling, wet with clear bright spirit

dripping everywhere, still, on Earth -
as light dancing the molecules of life;

struggling piteously, so admirably
for eyes, to know light, they shine -

so slowly they are growing hearts; hard
black fossil-muscles, dreaming of blood.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

I am a Poem

‘The suprising similarity of embyrological genes in worms, flies, chicks and people sings an eloquent song of common descent. The reason we know of this similarity is because DNA is a code written in a simple alphabet – a language. We compare the vocabulary of developmental genes and find the same words.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘Every original language near to its source is in itself the chaos of a cyclic poem: the copiousness of lexicography and the distinctions of grammar are the works of a later age, and are merely the catalogue and the form of the creations of Poetry.’ Defence of Poetry: Part First, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1821

I am a poem

I am a poem:

the words of my life now printed
on this one page of the Universe -

speaking me in particular air,
among volumes of time, here.


I am a hymn:

singing of life, dust among stars,
how light entered into darkness -

my tuned notes,
skin, heart, eye;

a choir of molecules
in the Psalm of Earth.


I have heard the Word:

recognise its voice
in river, tree, bird -

the chemical sounds of me
being spoken in the world,

formulae of my body’s song,
open blue vowels of my eyes;

called by the Word,
still, which is life.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

God is a Poet

‘The Eternall Son of God, who Logos hight,/ Made all things in a fit proportion…’ Henry More, 1614-87, Psychathanasia or The Immortality of the Soul

‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.’ Revelation 1, The Bible

‘By firm immutable immortal laws/ Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,/ Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife/ Organic forms, and kindled into life…’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Temple of Nature

‘He leaned/ over and looked in the dictionary/ they used. There was the blank still/ by his name of the same/ order as the territory/ between them, the verbal hunger/ for the thing in itself. And the darkness/ that is god’s blood swelled/ in him, and he let it/ to make the sign in the space/ on the page, that is all languages/ and none; that is the grammarian’s torment and the mystery/ at the cell’s core, and the equation/ that will not come out, and is/ the narrowness that we stare/ over into the eternal/ silence that is the repose of God.’ RS Thomas, The Gap

‘The works of God, above, below,/ Within us and around,/ Are pages in that book, to show/ How God Himself is found…Give me a heart to find Thee,/ And read Thee everywhere.’ Hymn 8, John Keble, 1792-1866

‘Today we are learning the language in which God created life…We are gaining ever more in awe for the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.’ Bill Clinton, US President


God is a Poet

God is a poet -
existence is a language.

God is an author -
He has written the world.

God is a poet -
Earth is His poem.


We too, are living poems,
printed in the Book of Life;

written in womb water,
dreaming ourselves

into existence -
the word of us

calling body, sight, touch,
thought, our own children,

with love’s compass;
the art of chemistry.

Coming from nothing
but our own darkness,

biological lights -
switching on/off/on.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

From the threads of nothing

‘Nature gets away with it:/ Repeats each year the same/ Familiar alphabet// And utters, without shame,/ The clich├ęs she has aired/ Since daffodils first came// Before the swallow dared;/ Her phrases catch the beath;/ We don’t ask to be spared// When, having passed through death,/ We face the platitude/ Of tenth – or fiftieth - // Return to life; have stood/ Repeated ecstasies/ In the enchanted wood…//…Are we not Nature too?’ Edward Lowbury, Redundancy

‘Think of that part of me wishing tonight to remember/ The split-second edge before the beginning,/ To remember by a sudden white involution of sight,/ By a vision of tension folding itself/ Inside clear open waters, by imitating a manipulation/ Of cells in a moment of distinction, wishing to remember/ The entire language made during that crossing.’ Pattian Rogers, The Rites of Passage

‘From words to literature in structural proteomics - Technical advances on several frontiers have expanded the applicability of existing methods in structural biology and helped close the resolution gaps between them. As a result, we are now poised to integrate structural information gathered at multiple levels of the biological hierarchy- from atoms to cells - into a common framework. The goal is a comprehensive description of the multitude of interactions between molecular entities, which in turn is a prerequisite for the discovery of general structural principles that underlie all cellular processes.’ Nature, 2003

From the threads of nothing

What agonising magic among the stars -
making from the dark threads of nothing;

silver fibres drawn from thought
haunting the empty halls of space.

Coaxing ideas into atoms,
energy, particles between,

to clustering molecules,
identity of a single cell;

life’s physical luxury -
organic sumptuousness.

Writing the means of Earth,
only from your own Word,

giving yourself,
your nature -

whispering existence through water,
the uncertain sleep of cultured light;

calling coded seeds to nurtured earth,
telling the worms of violins, Mozart -

proclaiming to flowers and Sun
how Einstein would look up too -

artist, philosopher, scientist, citizen -
one day understand such mechanisms,

how something comes from nothing -
conduit, cipher, tools and production;

at grand moments of chemistry,
sublime transcription, notation,

mothers and fathers would know
this urge, universal satisfaction -

an echo of original Creation;
and the big meaning, of love.

Monday, 19 May 2008

A, C, G, T

‘The filament of DNA is information, a message written in a code of chemicals, one chemical for each letter. It is almost too good to be true, but the code turns out to be written in a way that we can understand. Just like written English, the genetic code is a linear language, written in a straight line…it is digital, in that every letter bears the same importance. Moreover, the language of DNA is considerably simpler than English, since it has an alphabet of only four letters, conventionally known as A, C, G and T… how few people even guessed such a possibility. For the first half of the twentieth century, one question reverberated unanswered through biology: what is a gene? It seemed almost impossibly mysterious.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘The amino acids (the monomers) are just like the letters in a font of type. The base of each letter from the font is always the same, so that it can fit into the grooves that hold the asembled type, but the top of each letter is different, so that a particular letter will be printed from it...for each protein the letters have to be in a particular order (as indeed they have to be in a particular paragraph).’ Francis Crick, Co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, What Mad Pursuit, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989

‘How are the instructions written in the DNA? DNA is a code. The English alphabet is also a code.. Let's take the word "koala". The word as it is typed on the screen is not actually a koala. It doesn't live in Australia or eat eucalyptus leaves. But the letters 'k', 'o', 'a', 'l' and 'a' in that particular order mean an animal that lives in Australia and eats eucalyptus leaves.’ YourGenome.org

‘…genomes are written entirely in three-letter words, using only four letters: A, C, G and T (which stand for adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine). And instead of being written on flat pages, they are written on long chains of sugar and phosphate called DNA molecules…The genome is a very clever book because in the right conditions it can both photocopy itself and read itself. The photocopying is known as replication, and the reading as translation.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’ John 1, The Bible

‘O wisdom truly perfect! Thus to call/ From a few causes such a scheme of things, / Effects so various, beautiful, and great…’ James Thomson, 1700-48, To the Memory of Sir Isaac Newton


A, C, G, T

We have sung our song
a million billion times –

and know not why we sing -
conductor and Word are one.

Rehearsing ourselves until we were -
learning life’s words; from ourselves

we laid the recipes inside the heart
we learned to make. We were mad

with the smell of creation - the songs
of our making filled the whole world,

for we had no limits; we could not stop
or rest for the Word can never be silent.

Rehearsing our worms in mud,
our lung and peacock feather -

until our chemical art
formed hand and eye.

Four billion years we have sung
to make you, just so you can be -

creation is its own infinite purpose.
We believe the voice that called us

is creation; understanding our works,
we believe that Word must be love.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The First Syllable explodes -

‘…Or disappear/ Into the grass-blade atom – one flare/ Annihilating the world/ To the big-eyed, simple light that fled/ When the first word lumped out of the flint.’ Ted Hughes, ORTS, 7 Poets
‘Was it light that spake from the darkness, or music that shone from the word,/ When the night was enkindled with sound of the sun or the first-born bird?’ Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837-1928, Ode to Music

The First Syllable explodes -

The first syllable explodes,
among hot, broken stars -

blown black mouth
of perpetual night -

bursting forth -
flowering gases,

gasping hydrogen,
ecstatic elements -

mysterious holy germs
blooming to first light.

Word in darkness
now sounding -

speaking music -
articulating means;

dancing matter
to life, pliancy -

culmination, beginning
of love’s practical verse.


‘The filament of DNA is information, a message written in a code of chemicals, one chemical for each letter. It is almost too good to be true, but the code turns out to be written in a way that we can understand. Just like written English, the genetic code is a linear language, written in a straight line…it is digital, in that every letter bears the same importance. Moreover, the language of DNA is considerably simpler than English, since it has an alphabet of only four letters, conventionally known as A, C, G and T… how few people even guessed such a possibility. For the first half of the twentieth century, one question reverberated unanswered through biology: what is a gene? It seemed almost impossibly mysterious.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

Saturday, 17 May 2008

In Darkness, the Word

THE WORD - LOGOS

LIFE IS WRITTEN IN FOUR LETTERS
THE LETTERS ARE A, C, G, T


The Human Genome is the entire list of three billion letters required to create a human being. All the instructions are written in just four letters – A, C, G, T. The instructions are encoded in DNA. These four letters in the DNA alphabet carry the instructions to make all living things. From a human being to a leaf – a tiger, Guinea pig, tortoise, dolphin or flower. The meaning of the code lies in the sequence of the letters. Thus, from continual adaptation of just these four letters by the creative principle of Evolution, are made the hand, the heart, the eye - the iridescence of the peacock and brilliant blue of a kingfisher - the helicoptering sycamore key - druggy sunflower and poppy eyes - the chameleon, armadillo, bushbaby - and the perfumed stillness of the milk-skinned lily.

“There is no word used to create anything alive that is longer than three letters.” Matt Ridley, Science Writer

‘Today we celebrate the revelation of the first draft of the human book of life… it is humbling for me and awe inspiring to realise that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.’ Dr Francis Collins, Head, Human Genome Project, US

‘The languge of the genes has a simple alphabet, not with 26 letters but just four. These are the four different DNA bases…(A,G,C and T for short). The bases are arranged in words of three letters such as CGA or TGG…It is possible to write a meaningful sentence with 25 letters instead of 26, but only just. Life manages with a mere four.’ Steven Jones, Professor of Gentics, University College, London, The Language of Genes, HarperCollins, 1993

‘…we find poetry, as it were, substantiated and realized in nature: yea, nature itself disclosed to us... as at once the poet and the poem!’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘In the beginning was the Word.’ John 1, 1, The Bible

‘Imagine that the genome is a book. There are 23 chapters, called chromosomes. Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called genes. Each story is made up of paragraphs, called exons, which are interrupted by advertisements called introns. Each paragraph is made up of words, called codons. Each word is written in letters called BASES. There are one billion words in the book… This is a gigantic document, an immense book, a recipe of extravagant length, and it all fits inside the microscopic nucleus of a tiny cell that fits easily on the head of a pin. The idea of the genome as a book is not, strictly speaking, even a metaphor. It is literally true. A book is a piece of digital information, written in linear, one dimensional and one directional form and defined by a code that transliterates a small alphabet of sign into a large lexicon of meanings through the order of their groupings. So is the genome.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

Written out, the Human Genome would fill one million pages, 5000 books stacked 200 feet high; two hundred telephone directories. Read out for 24 hours a day, it would take a century to finish. It has taken scientists 13 years to decipher. The human body has 100 trillion (100 000 000 000 000) cells – each contains a copy of the entire Human Genome.

‘So although there are only twenty or so amino acids, the range of proteins to which they can give rise is effectively infinite. In the same way the twenty-six letters of the western alphabet can code the language of Shakespeare, and 10,000 other languages as well.’ Ian Wilmut, Scientist

‘To continue the linguistic, information-theory metaphor within which genetic theory was now to be formulated, the directed synthesis of RNAon DNA was termed transcription, and the synthesis of protein on the RNA was translation. DNA had become the master-molecule, and the nucleus in which it was located had assumed its patriarchal role in relation to the rest of the cell. It is hard to know which had more impact on the future directions of biology – the determination of the role of DNA in protein synthesis, or the organizing power of the metaphor within which it was framed.’ Steven Rose, Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism, 1997

‘In the beginning was the Word. The Word proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever – the Word discovered how to rearrange chemicals so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live – the Word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise. The Word eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain that could discover and become aware of the Word itself.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.’John 1, 1-5, The Bible

‘In our culture at present, people find it somewhat surprising that an idea can be large enough to have both a scientific and a religious aspect. This is because, during the last century, our ideas of religion, of science, and indeed of life have all become narrowed in a way that makes it difficult to get these topics into the same perspective. (Here our window has become a good deal narrower that it was when Galileo and Newton and Faraday used it. They never doubted these things belonged together).’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, 2003


In Darkness, the Word

Space vagrant -
in darkness, the Word

was.
Shut eye dreaming light

among a billion stars and gases,
dust and ashes.

First Author -
of itself;

principle without theory -
workings on the blackboard of space;

intention before means,
elements, first materials.

Earth and all her dreaming creatures
improbable as Raphael’s Madonnas

looming ethereal from mineral pigment,
the silver formulae of poems, skeletons

beneath as music is scored -
love’s organic consummation.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Unearthing the Human Genome

‘The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium has published its scientific description of the finished human genome sequence, the product of the 13-year effort to read the information encoded in the human chromosomes that reached its culmination in 2003. The paper, which appears in the 21 October issue of the journal Nature, examines the current genome sequence, which contains 2.85 billion nucleotides, encompasses around 99 per cent of the euchromatic (or gene-containing) portion of the human genome and is 99.999 per cent accurate - 10 times more accurate than the original goal. Notably, the predicted total number of genes has fallen to just 22 287: 19 599 known protein-coding genes and a further 2188 sections of DNA predicted to be protein-coding genes. Original estimates of gene number when the draft genome sequence was released were between 30 and 40 000, a figure that was considered surprisingly small. "Only a decade ago, most scientists thought humans had about 100 000 genes. When we analysed the working draft of the human genome sequence three years ago, we estimated there were about 30 000 to 35 000 genes, which surprised many. “This new analysis reduces that number even further and provides us with the clearest picture yet of our genome," said NHGRI Director Francis Collins. "The availability of the highly accurate human genome sequence in free public databases enables researchers around the world to conduct even more precise studies of our genetic instruction book and how it influences health and disease." ‘Finished' doesn't mean that the human genome sequence is perfect. There still remain 341 gaps in the finished human genome sequence, in contrast to the 150 000 gaps in the working draft…’ Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, 2004

Unearthing the Human Genome

Invading the sacredness of someone else’s bedroom top drawer -
women’s skin-powder dust, perfume ghosts; jewellery casualties
in gorgeous little velvet coffins, intestinal beads spilled, the blind

rings with lost eyes; brooches still pinning granny’s face - crippled,
bloody lipsticks, ancient silk limpening at the heart of lace - button
amputees clinging hopefully to threads, so desperate to feel needles

again in those aching holes, be re-united with dead mother garments.
The keys that haunt everybody – (if only we could find all the things
they open, close; the world - our lives, would be easier to understand).

Maybe tickets for a show – a boat, castle, years ago. Love words
and poems bleeding black and blue through skinny yellow paper;
cheesy souvenir thimble, horrible ribbon bows from forced necks

of momentous flowers - loud scarves slithering, slowly coming back
into fashion; pills for a forgotten illness with illegible doctor’s script,
safety-pins a-waiting sartorial danger; all these odd things washed up

from a life into the drawer, as sand passively takes all-comers – not
asking why, what for, just lays them out like starfish hands, accepts;
gradually becoming person-spelled, printed, like church icons slowly

growing holy. Imagine invading the sacredness of an egg, without
smashing, sawing, slicing. Think of the shape, perfect inviolability,
except for butting sperm inveigling mammal egg, promising cargo,

half-written letter by special delivery; the letterbox opening, healing,
as new life writes on the seemingly empty page - but magic happens,
lemon-juice writing, cocktail-shaking, spinning – an automaton body

making itself as mystery and grace hover like the breath of a lake;
halo, light anchored in a shining object - knowing skin boundaries
but not of them. The rooted, composted, whirring of letters shifting,

reforming - machine-knitting original patterns but incorporating still
Cable, Fair Isle, Turtle Neck. Patiently designing tiger fur, Einstein’s
brain, kingfisher wing, apple-belly; how to print love in a living eye.

*

Even beneath Plasticine’s pliable body -
before coming into warm moulding hands,

nimble fingers, multiple elastic fate;
mutability, passive form - material

at the heart of soft molecule,
to the inner nature of supple.

Even under thin star bones,
stuff of bone, white fibre -

to softness, cloud bone,
scaffold idea of bone -

white bone dream;
it is dark there -

everything unrealised, present -
like the absent breath of a ghost

inhabiting a prickling, cold room -
innocence of a black light switch

wired at the start of time -
where air is still dark space.

Now torches, spotlights shining
on the Genome’s many hearts -

all knowing in their history
each other’s beats and wars;

each one mother, son, sister, brother,
daughter to the other; genetic family,

the communal products of adaptation,
even collation of wrong information -

molecular meltdown, struggle and disease;
but always correcting or die in the attempt.

Always printing and editing - creating fantastic
patterns, chains; labour and success, developing

engineering, embroidering beauty; more
and more dazzling chemistry, creativity –

the tools of love, heart mechanics;
operation of eyes, hands blooming.

Like the tinkering watchmaker removing
the back, seeing unmistakeable artistry -

the mark, signature; instantly
knowing the maker’s name.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Working on the Human Genome

‘Francis Collins is a committed Christian and heads the publicly-funded National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Washington DC, US…His professional reward, he says, comes when he discovers something that “the creator knew ahead of time - that's one of the aspects of my existence I wouldn't trade for anything”.’ BBC News


Working on the Human Genome

I am working in the realm of Grace -
when I hang up my bright white coat,

its hollow arms fall sloppily warm,
droop open like tired wings - shine

under dazzling laboratory light.
I have been borrowed, loaned -

when I return from my labour
to familiar family and friends,

my tongue babbles white smiles;
I think when I touch my children

you will see this character silver
dripping from my loving fingers -

like the blood of mercury, nectar,
printing invisibly as kisses print,

shining their interior molecules -
because I have touched the divine.

I think they will see it -
in the pupils of my eyes,

like an infection of stars, love-scar,
because I have witnessed the divine;

so carefully unwrap the packaging,
to see the holy, golden gifts inside,

stripped of skin and shape.
And yet, I am there too -

all shining, shimmer-shivery,
as if stepped from the shower;

like a dripping silver ghost, indistinct -
then slipping even from this live ghost,

like a glorious embroidered robe -
and laughing aloud to see myself

only as code, known
as Word and light -

message and meaning;
love-print in the world.

All this makes me feel wonderful; as if
I come home looking just like the Moon.