Saturday, 26 April 2008

Human Genome (2a)

When the crude embryo careful Nature breeds,/ See how she works, and how her work proceeds;/ While through the mass her energy she darts,/ To free and swell the complicated parts,/ Which only does unravel and untwist/ Th’invelop’d limbs, that previous there exist./ And as each vital speck, in which remains/ Th’entire, but rumpled animal, contains/ Organs perplext, and clues of twining veins;/ So every foetus bears a secret hoard/ With sleeping, unexpanded issue stor’d;/ Which numerous, but unquicken’d progeny,/ Clasp’d and inwrap’d within each other lie;/ Engendering heats these one by one unbind,/ Stretch their small tubes, and hamper’d nerves unwind./ And thus, when time shall drain each magazine/ Crowded with men unborn, unripe, unseen,/ Nor yet of parts unfolded; no increase/ Can follow, all prolific power must cease.’ Sir Richard Blackmore, 1650?-1729, The Creation

‘Until now, human genes were an almost complete mystery.’
Matt Ridley, Genome, Fourth Estate, 2001

Human Genome (2a)

Unpluck your shining eyes;
time-tutored stones - bright

miracles of light’s yearning
to be seen, even in darkness -

biology’s artistic manipulation
of willing, original molecules -

by what advantage imagined,
partially configured, rehearsal

polished, to Nature’s unnatural glass -
like brilliant jewellery lay them down.

Slip easily from your supple skin,
perfectly fitted, slinky pink suit -

shapely garment of seamless weave;
rain-proof, snake-sloughed, corseted

with ribs - escape that imprisoning bone
bodice, as white harp for earth and wind;

rattle free from your broken Gothic
architecture of bones, amused skull.

Empty your heart’s red cauldron -
dampen the fiery circuitry, ticking

pump, pressured blood - pulsing
branches; excise the saintly liver,

washing, washing all the toxins
of the world - the humble bowel

remembering the fruitful processes
of earth; alchemy of meat and green

to energy, sunburst fuel in water.
Deflate - fold up internal wings,

with accordion/organ sounds -
cast off these snugly fitted feet,

like comfortable white shoes -
peel hyperactive starry hands

like kid gloves, break off
their battish stick-bones –

unwig your thatch of parasol/
pashmina hair, luxuriant scales;

winkle from rippled limpet-lips.
Hang up that clanking skeleton,

like a tailor’s dummy stripped -
uproot the thinking cauliflower;

sparkling, incessant nest of electric bees -
and what’s left, the living Genome ghost;

speckled net of shifting lights,
immaterial communications -

star patterns still speaking secret
languages with time’s first words;

chemical galaxies, messengers
in this old, communal universe -

black matter of the worm;
wing, tail, fin still snoring,

golden shimmer, shine, crackle,
as sequenced sparks luminesce,

like bright firefly talk, love,
in heavens of tropical trees.

Incandescent coils, strings switching,
blushing silver - surging, connecting,

flushing - lighting with intention -
expressing letter streams engraved

with being’s secrets; typset by Nature
in her single font, empowered by life -

rising each from heart, soul of water -
love kernel still a mystery in darkness;

orchestrating themselves - singing
into existence, touch; writing now.

And look here, curled sleeping
in the long dark, old cat-in-sun

who slept the day, found himself
among the stars – a dim pattern -

means of a tail - still-printed codes
at willing spine, bone-root knobble;

peacock-spread, almost comatose,
tea-lights in the electric cathedral,

size of furthest possible seed-stars -
but still dreaming, dozing, dreaming,

ah, of turning on those dazzling bulbs again,
that strutting, Beyonce, bootylicious shuffle;

rustling, drastic luxury, display - tugging wind
through a billion, hooked, iridescent blue hairs.

And here still, our enormous wings,
nature-painted at the shoulder - see,

by candle-light - swan-white fossils
in a holy church of bone; ourselves -

blade-nubs jagging bluntly for escape -
massive bat skeletons in Da Vinci pose;

we are the eagle still - pterodactyl -
kingfisher flash, fish luminescence;

glow-worm signalling retained -
on beckoning cliff-edge we hang,

splendid, noble beyond angelic -
animal-angels, awake, re-grown;

air roaring encouragement -
soft beaks sniffing welcome,

ambered sun, blue mother-sky -
muscular swan-shoulders bulge,

hollow-bone quiver-quills coming;
eight foot span, ox-chest - feathers

aching to sprout, like strained seed
stomachs engorged with messages

of air and light, braille earth, mouthing
water, coaxing the explosion of flower.

Free of our elaborate, working crusts -
organic evidence, presence, decoration,

the gleaming, dreaming Genome
shows us yet animal and flower,

shrew and fish, bird still hording wings;
indelibly printed with our invisible kin -

stamped with the mark of earth,
baptised with the sign of water -

our flesh in common with stars;
under this skin - already angels.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Human Genome (1)

The Human Genome is a book that can read itself - transcribing genes, copying, editing, translating. DNA copied into Messenger RNA…Transfer RNA – genes to acids to proteins. Codes and symbols becoming hair and teeth - skin, wings, kisses. A magical factory of words and chemicals still writing and editing itself after four billion years of Evolution. Letter, word, language, message and dictionary, understood by all living things - bird to man, lizard to man, fish to man. Fly, tiger, owl, worm and Polar Bear. That being heard makes hands and eyes; fur, claw, egg and tongue - reading themselves into existence. It is the book of life. A book that wrote itself. That writes itself; is writing, always. A book where the author is at once the book. In sublime biological creativity, it is the poetry of existence. The art of chemistry. Potential, script and means of organic expression; of life. The calling and creation of materials out of darkness. The Human Genome is a poem.

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

‘Looking back from the present, the genome seems immortal. An unbroken chain of descent links the very first ur-gene with the genes active in your body now – an unbroken chain of perhaps fifty billion copyings over four billion years.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘The organism is both the weaver and the pattern it weaves, the choreographer and the dance that is danced.’ Steven Rose, Lifelines: Biology, Freedom and Determinism, 1997

The Human Genome (1)

The Human Genome is a poem,
conjured syllable by syllable -

from light, water, earth -
such agonising millennia

for the red word of the heart;
rehearsing skin with lilies -

learning body from amoebae,
coagulation of a scripted cell,

through worm and fish,
lizard, bird and shrew –

to the last iris crinkle, hair scale,
spiral print at the tip of a finger -

a billion years to write the eye
from flowers’ pupil-mouths -

star-bone hands from leaf palms -
define pterodactyl wings to fingers;

achingly dyeing first seas, water,
into mysteries of blood and tears.

The Human Genome is Chemistry’s art
and power; life her hooked embroidery,

absolute poem of our communal origin -
creative drive, expression. Symphonious,

honed beyond words; pruned to letter,
sound - profound dessication of being

to what can be -
watered with life.

Boneless poem skeleton;
the stripped poem soul -

shivering like a naked map of stars,
jittery firefly sequence - unprinted.

Brushing the hedgerow
with a casual hazel stick

blanks a million pages
of life’s poetry realised -

each torn Briar Rose, confetti’ed
from her broken hinges, snowing,

took an age and then another age
to write - water dreaming petals.

Each silver fly wing crushed,
such a shattering of miracles;

shining wing glass delicately paned,
smelted from the elements of stars -

polished since original light,
gravity’s peculiar invention -

is a small window in the cathedral
of natural time, telling epic stories;

every geometry of this ruined web
was knitted by the artistry of time -

in sticky script, each silver thread
embroidered by the gifted spider -

this broken grasshopper was Physics’
singing child - her ramshackle rickle

of straw bones were living, brittle
calculations of ascent - parabolic

dramas on chlorophyll fuel; sprung
limb music of her sacrificial wings.

Molecules drafted through millennia,
coagulating endless dreams of water;

Chemistry’s infinite creative palette
sampling light and elements, script -

each hard-brained tight bramble
bouncing greenly, prematurely

to the fruitful morgue of earth,
rots still dreaming purple sugar,

staining blood plumping sweet;
bellyfuls of sun, seed, beak, lip -

bursting into mouth, gut or earth;
handfuls of black-eyed children -

dandelion suns, beheaded as aristocrats,
lion-shorn - still imagine symbiotic air

lifting their lost materials,
on round, star-hair wings.

The shape of the Genome poem
is scattered stars; a twinkling net

of orchestrated switches, illuminating
a man among the bundled prints Life

has already called from the darkness
over four billion years - an unbroken

poem of organic existence; a continuous
music played in flesh, without conductor

or general. Self harmonising, commanding
as the compelling orders of love - weaving

skin on scaffold bones built from water,
like shells, urchins - starfish into hands;

an entire organic future in one cell,
authored by the means of creation.

The sound is the opening of a hand,
that waving white star in the womb

of dreaming blackness; whole volumes
of latent life written at the heart of dark

Universe - spy-writing in invisible ink;
in shades of silver never yet seen in art

or chemistry - if light were liquid,
but not yet lit; or breath of a stone,

dimly blue, promising somehow a heart
from a handful of dust - fabulous intent.

The light of the Genome poem is eyes -
hothouses of soul, plastic organic glass;

her accomplishment that must shine -
whose nature is built of cultured light;

her root the metred heart, red root,
where love waits like a gardener -

rose and plum muscle, metaphorical
metronome; ignition - burning pump.

The writing of the Genome poem
is never done - each time-coiled,

spiralled, scripted cell reads endlessly
the masterwork – responds, reacts -

adapts, expresses, alters or deletes –
restlessly embroidering; elaborating

the art of life in chemistry -
in fresh materials re-drawn

from those first magic molecules
blown from the mouths of stars.

Until Omega, the last letter
in the Genome’s full stop -

crumbling silence of organic death,
twilight shudder of script transition;

understanding the mystery now,
the poem’s unwritten first word,

silent, immaterial syllable
in birthing darkness: Alpha.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The Human Genome: Poems on the Book of Life - The Blog

This blog will host a daily section from The Human Genome: Poems on the Book of Life by Gillian K Ferguson. As the work is more than a thousand pages long, we hope this will be an innovative way to engage with it, either by signing up for a feed or a daily email.

In the meantime please visit The Human Genome: Poems on the Book of Life