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