Saturday, 3 May 2008

Did God Know

‘Yet what wert thou to him, who knew his works,/ Before creation form’d them…’ Christopher Smart, 1722-71, On the Omniscience of the Supreme Being

Did God Know

Did God know the pattern of the zebra
would come from water, plastic mud -

did He dream the peacock feather,
starling throat, burning tiger skin -

white bear matching melting fur
with snow at the end of the world.

Did He think the lily skin,
or thistles’ Einstein hair -

new leaves blinking, shining,
palms still damp with spirit.

Did He invent poetry’s silver bones,
music’s flexible mercury skeleton -

silently breeding words, sounds, notes -
each one the product of a million years.

Was He amazed by us,
bred from His germ -

as our child’s face startles,
haunted by our very eyes -

tugging of umbilical wire -
groping passionflower arms.

Did He know these voices
would come in black night,

calling His name; pleading, trying
to surrender freedom for justice -

peace, healing, beauty, love,
company among dead stars -

not sure anymore if He had invented
them, or they Him in the big scheme.

Had He planted the seed of love -
His own heart, original life kernel

beating under earth, spawning all -
waiting anxious as a good gardener;

dreaming the flower,
inventing loneliness.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Does God Remember?

‘I come from empyrean fires - / From microscopic spaces,/ Where molecules with fierce desires,/ Shiver in hot embraces./ The atoms dash, the spectra flash,/ Projected on the screen,/ The double D, magnesianb,/ And Thallium’s living green.’ James Clerk Maxwell, 1831-79 To the Chief Musician upon Nabla

‘The shape of the DNA double helix is ideal for DNA’s role as a store and preserver of information.’ Medical Research Council, UK

Does God Remember?

Does God remember the defining;
shining organic coalescence, time

when the first cell settled -
the wondrous chemistry.

Being drawing itself into being
by its very nature, will to exist;

using anything around,
just to be, stay, still be -

the creativity with those chemicals!
Even God thought it was a miracle

when He had made it possible,
dreamed them into existence -

imagined the matrix, Word,
to call from Periodic Table,

list ingredients, principle, into life -
held his breath that it would work,

this calling to matter of pattern,
this holy glueing; good practise

for his trick of body and soul,
joining of irreconcilable stuff

only a god could possibly pull off -
like a magician with a miracle, or

two up his sleeve; bouquets
of flowers, coloured strings -

making the world rehearse
billennia until it got it right,

learned his own best tricks;
made his own organic son

to make sure he wasn’t wrong -
life was that good, that fantastic;

such a show of preposterous miracles
no-one could treat it as other than holy,

doubt the dominance, principle of love –
realised he must breathe to make it work,

stir such chemicals with light and love -
lifting out of artless mixture, possibility;

gently, slowly - not that great showy gasp
among the heavens, sneezing stars, planets

all over the place, burning his silver fingers
on the molten Sun brought hot – ferocious -

from his oven belly - rolling planet after planet
in his palm, learning, until Earth was perfected;

the world his bulging family album,
holy record - birth, marriage, death,

birth…fabulous circular ripples of life
bringing tiger, spider, flower and man;

beetle and hand, eye and grasshopper
from the same root, ingredients - art.

Were there tears He learned
when the first rain happened -

sky sobbing at the huge beauty
of her blue reflection in the sea;

Earth began to learn -
reflect fresh love back,

run with His spirit of creativity;
at the first exquisite heart flutter,

possibilities of that startling blood -
when He saw the eye coming to be

to dazzling excitement of waiting light -
first mother-creature understanding love

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Who Breathed Chemicals into Life

‘But his daily amusement is Chemistry. He has a small furnace, which he employs in distillation and which has long been the solace of his life. He draws oils and waters, and essences and spirits, which he knows to be of no use; sits and counts the drops as they come from his retorot, and forgets that, whilst a drop is falling, a moment flies away.” Idler, Samuel Johnson, 1758

"I shall attack Chemistry, like a Shark”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘In January 2001, scientists… produced complex organic molecules under conditions resembling those which exist in interstellar clouds of gas and dust…which, when immersed in water spontaneously created membraneous structures resembling soap bubbles. All life on earth is based on cells, bags of biological material encased in just this kind of membrane. The implication of this work is that space is filled with chemical compounds which can easily give a kick-start to life if they land in a suitable environment, such as on the surface of the Earth.’ John Gribbin, Stardust: the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people, Penguin, 2001

Who Breathed Chemicals into Life

Who breathed chemicals into life,
made that art of heart and rose -

process greening leaf,
sugaring siren flower.

Who put owl eyes on butterflies,
what for, or how, came eagles -

flying golden from crumbled dust,
hung burning, crucified with light,

dazzling in dusk’s first purple breath -
why came the twitching red-eyed hare,

his russet fur on fire - rocking madly
into nervous twilight, scattering slow

fat rabbits munching grass at sunset,
rusting in the final scene of evening.

Who caused honeysuckle to exhale,
romancing early moths stumbling

into light and perfume, summer evening’s
warm blue mouth - blur-blue - dim-blue -

gold-blue, rose-blue, navy, black; stoning
the still-blue hours - holding its sugared,

signalled breath, until now - time of bat-
flicker, hoots; of stuttering mice moving

grass blades aside with human fingers -
how can all this be, here, accomplished,

asks the man wearing his chemical suit
of miracles, fabulous embroidery of life;

his own experimental design, gorgeous
body and hair, inhabiting these fingers,

this brain; able to pick, read grain
of wheat or sand - feed, calculate -

admire, plant, dream, philosophise.
Why does the kissing of X and Y -

egg and sperm, do anything at all?
What catalyst comes among us -

to that interior dark, savage sex
of lichen, spore, amoebae, dirt -

bumping into moths, moons, bats,
and honeysuckle; night’s speckled

banners hung shining with ignorant planets,
gossiping clusters milky with fogged light -

humming, searching with storm-lamp mind,
these blind fingertips telling dandelion clock

from child’s hair; but just, for a spark
one is able to imagine looks something

like a bright star -
the touch of light.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Feeling the Discovered Workings of the Genome

‘First HEAT from chemic dissolution springs,/ and gives to matter its eccentric wings…. ATTRACTION4 next…The ponderous atoms from the light divides,/ Approaching parts with quick embrace combines,/ Swells into spheres, and lengthens into lones./ Last, as fine goads the gluten-threads excite,/ Cords grapple cords, and webs with webs unite;/ And quick CONTRACTION5 with ethereal flame/ Lights into life the fibre-woven frame.-/ Hence without parent by spontaneous birth/ Rise the first specks of animated earth;/ From Nature’s womb the plant or insect swims,/ And buds or breaths, with microscopic limbs…3. The matter of heat is an ethereal fluid, in which all things are immersed… Without heat, all the matter of the world would be condensed into a point by the power of attraction; and neither fluidity nor life could exist….4…. Particular attraction, or chemical affinity, must likewise occupy the spaces between the particles of matter which they cause to approach each other….[Darwin’s notes]’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Temple of Nature

‘*The word ‘mechanics’, in this context, is provocative. It stands in opposition to the concept of ‘vitalism’. Vitalists maintain that life is driven by unique processes that are not explicable purely by the standard laws of physics and chemistry, while ‘mechanists’ maintain that life simply required complicated chemistry.’ Note, Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘Chemist, you breed/ In orient climes each sorcerous weed/ That energises dream – ‘. Herman Melville, 1819-91, The New Zealot to the Sun

‘SURLY: “What else are all your terms,/ Whereon no one of your writers ‘grees with other?/ Of your elixir, your lac virginis,/ Your stone, your med’cine, and your chrysosperme,/ Your sal, your sulphur, and your mercury,/ Your oil of height, your tree of life, your blood,/ Your marchesite, your tutie, your magnesia,/Your toad, your crow, your dragon, and your panther;/ Your sun, your moon, your firmament, your adrop,/ Your lato, azoch, zernich, chibrit, heautarit,/ And then your red man, and your white woman,/ With all your broths, your menstrues, and materials,/ Of piss and egg-shells, women’s terms, man’s blood,/ Hair o’ the head, burnt clouts, chalk, merds, and clay,/ Powder of bones, scalings of iron, glass,/ And worlds of other strange ingredients,/ Would burst a man to name?” SUBTLE: “And all these named,/ Intending but one thing: which art our writers/ Used to obscure their art”.’ Ben Jonson, 1572-1637, The Alchemist

Feeling the Discovered Workings of the Genome

I rub my hands together, feeling frizzy chemical combustion;
skin spawning elastic cell-seal - muffled hinges of articulate
stem-star bone crackling silently under our muscular gloves,

that can stroke notes from gappy piano teeth, but strangle;
comfort, strengthen, punch or pray - the organic red pump,
battery clock and wires, pulsing wrist guages industriously.

I run my fingers through my hair, frazzling the yellow factory,
sparking seed-silk filaments into animal fuzz - ghost remnant
sprouting arty follicles with no imperative for such a display -

kept like a peackock tail, physical halo, scripture of decoration.
My stomach oven growls - independent hunger, acidic machine
processes. Dust launches from me in dirty sun; my own glittering

galaxy of spent particles - each authored with potential me -
my universal signature floating nowhere, nano person-planets
seeded with the means of life, wandering or returning to earth.

I feel the Genome; writing, powering. My own chemicals
dancing - combining, producing, housekeeping, adapting;
such quadrilles, Eightsome Reels, a-waltzing in the heart

and brain. Pagan and religious ecstasy as one, as life.
So much vibration, I burn blue/red/gold as Autumn -
as sparking leaf, touch my small child’s spring hand;

feel silver spiral-fires of reciprocal DNA, sparkling,
chemical crackling of growing hand - practicalities
of bone, blood, skin; presence of art, beauty settling

this pristine home, universal energy flowing around
his head - the mark of a child, child halo; new light
called from old, original - yet still illuminating stars.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008


‘All life is chemistry’, Jan Baptista van Helmont, 1648

‘Life roughly consists of the chemistry of three atoms, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, which among them make up 98% of all atoms in living beings…life consists of the interplay of two kinds of chemicals – proteins and DNA. Protein represents chemistry, living breathing metabolism and behaviour - what biologists call the phenotype – DNA represents information, replication, breeding, sex – what biologists call the genotype – neither can exist without the other.’
Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘We are made of stardust.’
John Gribbin, Stardust: the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people, Penguin, 2001

‘At least some life is chemistry,’ Freidrich Wohler, 1828, (following his synthesistation of urea from ammonium chloride and silver cyanide, crossing what had been the sacrosanct divide between the chemical and biological worlds).

‘In short, with the birth of molecular biology, genetics could become an exercise in chemistry: highly refined chemistry, but chemistry nonetheless.’ Ian Wilmut, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

"Of course, we have a long way to go before the benefits of this work are realised. The unravelled genome is, on its own, simply a list of chemicals. The next stage is to try to understand how those chemicals work together to create the genetic instructions that operate our bodies.” Sir Robert May, Chief Scientific Advisor to UK Government

‘In a sense, human flesh is made of stardust…Every atom in the human body, excluding only the primordial hydrogen atoms, was fashioned in stars that formed, grew old and exploded most violently before the Sun and the Earth came into being. The explosions scattered the heavy elements as a fine dust through space. By the time it made the Sun, the primordial gas of the Milky Way was sufficiently enriched with heavier elements for rocky planets like the Earth to form. And from the rocks atoms escaped for eventual incorporation in living things: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur for all living tissue; calcium for bones and teeth; sodium and potassium for the workings of nerves and brains; the iron colouring blood red… and so on. No other conclusion of modern research testifies more clearly to mankind’s intimate connections with the universe at large and with the cosmic forces at work among the stars.’ Nigel Calder, The Key to the Universe, BBC, 1977

‘These stars are the fleshed forebears/ Of these dark hills, bowed like labourers// and of my blood…the tree is caught up in the constellations./ My skull burrows among antennae and fronds.’
Ted Hughes, Lupercal, Faber and Faber, 1960

‘Life begins with the process of star formation. We are made of stardust. Every atom of every element in your body except for hydrogen has been manufactured inside stars, scattered across the Universe in great stellar explosions, and recycled to become part of you. The hydrogen is primordial material, produced in the Big Bang, along with Helium… we are a natural product of the Universe we live in.’
John Gribbin, Stardust: the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people, Penguin, 2001

‘PROTEIN - The DNA codes for protein. In our cells, proteins are the labourforce. It is proteins that get everything done. Proteins make new cells and destroy old or diseased ones. Proteins break down our food to release energy. Proteins organise the transport of useful chemicals between cells. Often, these useful chemicals are themselves proteins. As well as doing things, proteins are the building blocks for most of your body…The ingredients of a protein are amino acids. To build a protein we need to build a long chain of amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids, so there are lots of different protein chains we can build. Biologists give amino acids a code letter, as for DNA’

‘Thus, the order of play of four bases in a long molecule does indeed provide an organism with all the information it needs to do all the things an organism does. Astonishing!’ Ian Wilmut, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

God is a Chemist

God is a chemist.
Chemistry is art,

Beauty is chemistry.

Earth, life -

written, spoken
with chemicals.

‘Take Carbon for example then/ What shapely towers it constructs to house the hopes of men!/ What symbols it creates/ For power and beauty in the world/ Of patterned ring and hexagon - / Building ten thousand things/ Of earth and air and water!... Love holds its palms before the flower/ Of anthracite and purrs.’ AM Aullivan, Atomic Architecture

‘THE INGREDIENTS FOR LIFE: 1) Liquid water, 2) Chemical building blocks like carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, 3) An energy source.’ BBC Science, 2006

God the Chemist (1)

God the Chemist,
God the Chemist -

praise his bright materials
prised from unlikely night;

bodies of stars,
blood of light.

Make exultant hymns, symphonies,
to the invented art of First Elements,

cosmic experimentation –
spirit, love and chemicals.

Hail, Holy Alchemist, High Poet,
Philosopher’s Stone of Creativity,

turning nothing
into Earth, Life;

a handful of darkness into green
leaf; transfiguring light into eyes.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Everything is a Poem

‘If only we could read the language, the DNA of tuna and starfish would have ‘sea’ written into the text. The DNA of moles and earthworms would spell ‘underground’…we are digital archives of the African Pliocene, even of Devonian seas; walking repositiories of wisdom out of the old days. You could spend a lifetime reading in this ancient library and die unsated by the wonder of it.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

‘I open the leaves of the water at a passage/ Of psalms and shadows among the pincered sandcrabs prancing/ And read, in a shell,/ Death clear as a buoy’s bell:/ All praise of the hawk on fire in hawk-eyed dusk be sung.’ Dylan Thomas, Over Sir John’s Hill

‘…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

‘The three letter words of the genetic code are the same in every creature – CGA mean arginine and GCG means alanine in bats, beetles, beech trees, bacteria…whatever animal, plant, bug, you look at, if it is alive it will use the same dictionary and know the same code. All life is one…The unity of life is an empirical fact.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

‘A Poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. §60 There is this difference between a story and a poem, that a story is a catalogue of detached facts, which have no other bond of connexion than time, place, circumstance, cause and effect; the other is the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the creator, which is itself the image of all other minds.’ Defence of Poetry: Part First, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1821

Everything is a poem (1)

In the work of the world, everything is a poem;
slow petal hinges closing the drowsy flower -

expressed on evening’s darkening page -
white smudge, humble blurred blue halo,

surviving past her last consciousness of light,
that woke the flower first, always, from earth;

her simple sugar succumbed to chocolately fug,
chloroform sweetness of the honeysuckle drug -

poppy-eyed in struggling dusk, eyelids drooping,
gathering her own small cup of warm darkness.

An owl flash - small Pagan angel annunciating night,
his gorgeous white savagery of spread wings preying;

incandescent red star of dying leaf, lain smouldering
all day in autumn’s gold grate, among burning frost -

luminous also, one feather, but moon-dipped once,
still dripping silver liquid - losing skeletal theories

of sky, motion, dexterity; essential bird-part lost,
discarded involuntarily by a shooting orange fox,

in a field haunted by embroidered butterflies -
too blue to accept extinction, iridescence’s end,

after such time spinning sky fibre into wings -
aesthetic and physical understanding of gravity.

Still a poem, this ghost-blue feather - bedraggled,
without blood or whatever fuels white birds in air;

root-clue to wing, sky-clue of flight, symbolic emblem
of the bird, softened from bone, fashioned from skin -

still wound in unzipped hooks, coiled symphonics -
just audible from the crumbling chemicals, ectastic

even in ruin; such stores of ecstasy in a single feather
cell - songs never sung again - lonely part of a flying

whole - no longer with necessary mechanisms,
connections; but remembering to the last atom -

telling the brown ground-mouth how it is up there,
still singing of it as the last shining molecule falls

apart, back to stardust - becoming one noise -
principle of flight re-furled, laid down, stored

by a generous Universe dreaming molecular
schemes; the symbiotic pattern of the feather.

The foolish moth crashes unconscious, light-
casualty - bumping snow-flakely into desire,

stunned - his wings are sails paddling earth -
legs, stick-wings; he feels like us, struggling

arms outstretched, being planes, birds,
exalting in wind, sunshine, freedom -

how we spread our wings when joy presses
that scripted bone button, still written there,

instructions between the shoulder-blades -
fossil-wings, de-feathered stumps, reflexive

sprouting, though there is nothing to see;
except maybe on summer backs of naked

children playing. The moth is up, stumbling,
soon gulped by darkness; his doomed flight/

near death/survival is a poem - incorporating
tiger-name, Bonsai red Viking horns, burned-

paper wings; more stanzas in his small moth poem,
that will be written all night across wild black sky -

and coiled in him, expressed from cocoon to wing-
dust fallen - scrabbled here, his bright brown mark

on earth. I could make a moth if I were God -
by blowing on this invisible scrambled script,

make it speak again, more moth poems, on and on;
but rubbed in my thumb and forefinger, just stays

moth-dust, inert brown shimmer; nothing - no moths
spring from my fingers’ frictional electricity, except

the idea of moths - but that’s the start – even
this mothy dust-smear glimmering with intent.

Is there anything alive that does not shine, or
was part of being alive, has gleaming residue;

until Death switches back the master-light -
to the mysterious off position; life’s darkness

of possible endings, new breeds, light species.
That little flower keeps luminescing in gloom,

though it has never known a kiss -
who knows if bees came, rubbed

her throat, gathered her pollen, sugars;
if she is mother-flower, floral spinster -

now, I kiss her - kin, sister,
to become part of her poem

this evening - mark, celebrate such union -
which the Genome now shows was written

always in the world, but never read by us.
Our kiss, she enjoys, faint muffled sighing

like the voice of snowflakes; her bluish-white
shine glimmering now above moth-shimmer -

even this conjunction, beauty enough for one night.
But for this night lyric, I gather more lines because

everything is a poem - even my own white hand,
also luminous in darkness, reaching to her neck -

swan of my spine, corn-curl hair, crustacean
pucker in limpet lips; the consummate poem

of eyes speckled silver at night by star reflection -
organic mirror of the galaxy, black pupil of space;

Bonsai Milky Way clustered with promising spirals,
quieted a moment to concentrate on smaller poems -

beautifying leaves in the greater global poem;
universal work begun when time hatched too.

Reciprocally, her DNA altering my whole poem –
write in me too, small flower, thin-lipped, kissed;

rhyme our meeting, touch, with dark verses of white -
drawn from our communal absorption of summer light,

perfume of sweet floral pheromone; taste of pollen -
there is nothing I bring that is not love, our language.

Moth and owl of the Night Poem speak it too -
the honeysuckle, butterfly, orange fox, feather;

still - among the murmur of crumbling spirals,
the red leaf burning a star-hole in the Universe.

Everything is a poem - poem among poems,
greater, grander works, interlinked, growing;

globes of poetry, sphere around sphere
of interwoven layers - interconnected

phrases, words - on and on, in and in,
within, beyond; out, out further until

atmosphere, gases, stars – that stark silver
poetry of stars - austere, musical, polished

to the bone; poem skeletons, master-works
in exhibiting darkness - beyond light, after

spectrum - child rainbow to full colour;
where there is no one light of morning,

no flower or moth; where the orange fox
does not run or uproot the silver feather -

angel-owl proclaim; to the ultimate poem,
mother-poem - original poem - the Word.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


It was a hard thing to undo this knot./ The rainbow shines, but only in the thought/ Of him who looks. Yet not in that alone,/ For who makes rainbows by invention?/ And many standing round a waterfall/ See one bow each, yet not the same for all,/ But each a handsbreath further than the next./ The sun on falling waters writes the text/ Which yet is in the eye or in the thought./ It was a hard thing to undo this knot.’ Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poet

‘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


These moments when I hold my milky child
sleepy on my knee,

this cup of my heart overflows -
love drowns me

with only the soul of water.
All that’s left

in the total silveriness
are co-ordinates -

a net of stars,
for passion;

universal focus,
holy grid reference.

(Passion now wearing her new, calm face -
with dazzling skin of thickened light, but
her uncontrollably-burning, crazy star-eyes
cooled now into owl pools, huge and shining-
holding a whole bright face, so mirror-clear.
This time proved to her absolutely, indubitaly
she can survive, so fully hooked, she has lain
down her weapons, brands - her desperation –
memory of all her untimely deaths, periodic
insanity; madness all lion-tamed behind her,
she has changed from her Gothic red velvet
into stainless white silk robes, a gold crown,
carrying her quieted fire captured like a lamp,
showing her trail of unstable, hollow ghosts -
who had all seemed to be immortal for a time.)

There are no eyes anymore,
filming skin, nerve flash -

senses too thick, clumsy,
too electrical,

like a plug-in Moon;
white nerved hands

just wired starfish prints
on thoughts of skin, hair, air.

Our bodies are folded away
like winter gloves

in this almost deathly summer of things -
breathing goes on for us

like the presence of a ghost,
estranged mechanism.

My child is the shine
in the apple of God’s eye;

only the ramshackle vehicle for love;

but a silver skeleton I didn’t know
existed under my bones,

like the snowflake’s vest of crocheted ice,
is becoming perfect,

matrix -
more inorganic than organic -

like spirit-root
of flowering flesh.

Everything else swims away to be itself -
I feel love write over me

with only the spirit of its word;
at last I have learnt its language,

am almost worthy;
now I understand,

know what it means -
why God had a child.