Introductory Poems

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.

‘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.

‘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, indubitably

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.

‘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.





Note from the author
exploring the project

    The Human Genome Project (1)
    The Word
    Genetic Transcription
    & Translation
    Nature of the Genome
    All Life is One

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