‘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.

‘…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. 

Wherefrom our understanding

Everything that lives -

once lived, might live,

is written in us. Is still writing.

Wherefrom our understanding,

feeling for water, light,

animals; Nature - Earth.

‘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.

‘...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


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.

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 -


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.

‘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.

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.

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.

‘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.

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.

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.

Writing my life today

My life is writing on the page

restless History turns today -

another paragraph, sentence,

coming from the cell’s heart,

script reading aloud

in my theatre of time.

And what stories in the eye,

what bright prayer to light

written in perspex lens -

the scribbling red retina.

What poem in my hands

cupping my little boy’s

rhapsodical uplifted face;

such meaning in the kiss.


‘Spelling mistakes. A letter missed, wrong letter inserted. A sentence deleted, duplicated, spelt backwards. We are all mutants, accumulating a hundred mutations per generation… Many mutations do not seem to do anything, but one mistake in the million three letter words in the Genome can be deadly.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

‘In effect, our genome is a fundamentally important document written in an obscure language, telling of human life's history on Earth, where we came from and when, and riddled with errors that sometimes make us sick.’ Robert Cooke, Newsday

‘A poet can survive everything but a misprint.’ Oscar Wilde

What creaking of the verse expressed;

mild stutter to tumbling of the poem –

stresses, syllables out of synch – discord -

dissonance, suffering of words misspelled.

Scales of mutation from smileable quirk

to tragedy; no wonder I am on my knees

for my own beauty, despite visible errors,

letter-flaws, still essentially harmonious –

these new materials of me, fresh chemistry,

sounding melodious notes in the darkness.

‘[Francis] Bacon's terminology is unfamiliar, yet his formulations cut across recent fashions of thought and jolt us out of our preconceptions. The language we use about genetics and the genome project at times limits and distorts our own understanding, and the public understanding. Look at the phrase - or marketing slogan - 'the human-genome project'. In reality, of course we have not just one human genome but billions. At the level of genes, the project promises a useful consensus, but at the level of sequences of nucleotides variability is great and important, and not just for uniquely identifying rapists and murderers. Clues to disorders, to talents and even to human origins may be buried there. Further, the genome project draws in various bacteria, yeast, nematode, fruitfly, zebrafish, mouse and chimpanzee. Comparisons are already forcing attention to features of the sequences previously unrecognized but so essential they have been conserved over hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Then, too, the entire phrase - the human-genome project: singular, definite, with a fixed end-point…But we knew from the start the genome project would never be complete. The maps, or the sequences, are just the start of many lines of research, polyphiloprogenitive, multiply multiple genome projects. This sloppy language is not merely shorthand, scientists talking among themselves. Scientists talk to the media, then the media talk to the public - and then scientists complain that the media get it wrong and that politicians and public are misinformed. What the media do is mediate. Public misinformation is largely and in origin the fault of scientists themselves.’ Horace Freeland Judson, Director, Center for History of Recent Science, George Washington University, Washington, US, Nature, 2001

‘When I was just starting out ‘being’ a poet, I sent my work to a famous poet – (the way you feel able to do somehow as a youth) - and - amazingly - he invited me for tea. We went through my sheaf of poems, and he assured me - “You are a poet, no doubt, no doubt”, and then uttered the best words you can imagine saying to a young aspiring poet - holding up one poem, reading it aloud, saying: “I wish I’d written that - will you sell it to me?” Hilarious, touching, kind, supportive, generous, inspiring… And I have been able to carry these words around with me all these years - during such arduous times - and they always give me courage; still make me smile. Anyway, as we worked through more stuff on my second visit - again glowing with 40-year-old pure Malt instead of jittery with tea - in the comforting autumn fug of hundreds of Silk Cut and Golden Virginia roll-ups - he told me to come back with 20 new poems next time. But added it would be advisable to drop certain words because they would be considered ‘old-fashioned’ and over-romantic; drop them even though there was nothing wrong with them. Among these were the beautiful words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’. So I did. But over the years, I have discovered there are no absolute replacements for these words; no synonyms loaded through centuries with such meaning and symbolism, beauty and power. So now I think – ‘Fuck it’, and I’ve begun to have courage to use them again, with all their rich resonance – have even dug up other brilliant words buried in the modern age, like ‘grace’! (By the way, I was so honoured, and wanted so much for the 20 new poems to be worthy of this invitation, that I spent ages and ages on them, during a period of chronic ill health – by the time I sent them, he was ill, and correspondence was being returned by relatives, unread. I tried again: same. I never saw or spoke to him again before his death.) When I recalled his strengthening words in a poem in my first book, the editor insisted I “cut out the best line in it”, about buying the poem, in case it was seen as arrogant in a first volume! When the poem was reprinted, therefore, in a commemorative collection after his death, these inspirational, kind and funny words – most apt to remember this fantastic man - do not appear either.’ Gillian K Ferguson, random personal notes about power of words 

‘Metaphysical materialism got into European thought in the first place as a weapon used, first by the early atomists and then by political campaigners such as Hobbes, against the dominance of religion. In modern times the prime motivation behind it was horror and indignation at the religious wars and persecutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centures and its main target was the notion of the soul as a distinct entity capable of suriving death. As we have seen, this social and political motivation was quite close to that of the ancient atomists, who were also moved by outrage at disastrous religious practices. This motivation was a suitable one for forging a weapon in campaigns against the churches. But it was much less able to provide a balanced foundation for the whole of science, let alone for a general understanding of life.’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routeledge, 2003

Using the word ‘soul’ again

I have called you by other names, coyly,

like the lover who cannot speak of love;

euphemisms, imposters - weak, flat,

milky words, ventriloquist dummies,

as if foolishly naming the river anew

each day, for shame of the mercury

‘river’ word, writing running silver

into the world; denying moon-light

words pooling unseen mountain bowls,

the drooped white flower-heads at dusk;

sea’s restless evening lace

at the shore’s golden wrist -

ignoring flashing snowy owls

freaked by sound and light -

sky’s simmering black soup of stories,

bruised with blue embroidered galaxies,

peppered with hot white stars cracking -

that maddening bright peephole to Heaven,

scabbed with the Moon’s stone membrane;

plugging with lifeless light - her own cold

soul hung, drawing and pulling as each month

passes, spying on wolves, lovers and madmen.

Life snoring, raucous with colour

under dancing blue-white lids -

somewhere else in the dreaming real world;

like ice slowly imprisoning water nature –

cryogenic light; killing her perpetual shift,

beatless clear heart and invisible creatures –

when she thaws, it is the corpse of water there,

dead like the murdered loch waters still deeply

mountain-cold, the blood of snow, but sterile

from the tap, like the fish open-mouthed and

eyed in their crushed glass graves - or the tiny

neverending dramas of surprised flies in amber.

But look, here you come, forgiving me.

I have called you forth again - patient

Pan-pipe sounds from my mouth and throat -

as I coaxed the bibbed uncertain pine martens

with local tricks of bread and strawberry jam,

to pour their brown gloss sinuously over dykes.

Under night’s black eye when you are better seen -

like crinkling eyes of pensioner stars making merry

at the death of light - sparkling celestial wake

of clueing Moon, almost answering questions

we do not know how to ask; about the absence

of warmth, blood, water - anything green, ever.

Creeping shy - wild animal sniff and slink -

canine smile; still silver - shimmery glimmer,

mink-light made of atomless tulle stuff;

rooted to the Genome’s chemical earth

by some holy glue unseen, made of energetic space;

something sublimely sticky - hooking, anchoring -

flying the body as a bright kite in life’s blue sky;

loving, just inhabiting these particular molecules,

symbiotic with Earth, in life, but not dependent -

because not organic in the way of skin and bones,

but being beyond all that energy and material -

1920s wedding dress-colour; ancient silk, frail,

mothy in a battered trunk - something of old Christmas,

patina of calmer 1950s glitter; eerie, ghostly Victorian-

white - a grown up child’s dusty fairy wings; then -

focusing; open sun mouth blowing on broken water,

mosaiced sea face - humanoid, silver,

like a cast snake skin; wingless angel

with hot white buds burning on its back,

sticky, bursting like urgent chestnuts -

the whole surface as a total shining eye,

all intact, wearing figured imagination.

You have survived me – stoically -

bravely; carried my signature light,

this singular identity,

as you will entirely.

This morning I dreamt I had tea with George Clooney

(and congratulated him on his excellent exhibition of DNA)

This morning I dreamt I had tea with George Clooney -

God, he was gorgeous - such a beautiful man, so dark,

coal-smouldery, funny - so brave in a difficult place -

such excellent use of his DNA, as I congratulated him;

not just concentrating on this lucky external frilly stuff -

using lovely looks, physical advantage, for personal gain;

and was about to take the date further - my dream DNA

blissfully unaware of my waking molecules’ circumstance,

like, er, husband, happy marriage, product of shared DNA.

No, I was free, yippee, a sliver of being, selective, different -

just the same everywhere DNA matters, but, Mmm, evolved;

slinky, streamlined, flawless - gorgeous, honed, divine DNA…

when my husband woke me with a cup of real tea -

bloody hell, talk about boo-hoo! And when I tried

to go back there, George was nowhere to be found,

the dream tea cold in two dusty Marie Celeste cups.

A bit like the time I was dream-sixteen again,

in this school bus on the road - and there was

a bus from another school on the same outing,

and who should it be I was eyeing up and vice

versa, but Robbie Williams! Still sixteen too -

quite the fittest – gypsy-green eyes - panther hair,

dense black shine, eyelashes two dark butterflies

that had been up a chimney - such smiling, thrill,

excitement in my dream – again, totally unaware

I am now a happily married mother, so respectable

I no longer even smoke - never mind go around snogging

younger pop stars, though he was just a lad as I was a lass

in this Oscar-quality mental play; but, again, I was woken

just before our flirted lips touched - more’s the pity – shit,

because if it’s this same DNA that means you can write -

empathise, suffer all that you suffer being oversensitive -

depression and anxiety-prone; if you have all down-sides

of the subtle creative recipe, why the hell not the up-sides?

Why shouldn’t it be so real sometimes, firing imagination,

as to bring such consolation; rewrite a moment in fantastic

history - when in horrible fact I was still plumpy-dumpy -

would never ever have scored a lad like Robbie Williams;

never will snog a gorgeous pop star now, even if I wanted -

my bright, kindling, mind-DNA can make it seem that way,

so real it almost feels as if I have - in the same bizarre way

we can love characters from TV, films and books -

cry real tears over them, while knowing them not

to be real. So I think, smiling, gleeful, to myself –

thanks DNA - give me some more compensation

then - OK, agreed? Some freelance dream DNA,

captured in my sleeping genomic net. Who’s next?-

Maybe Goran Visjnic, Johnny Depp - or Aragorn -

in dreams, being fictional is no bar to audition, well,

if sufficiently yum - the dream self being somehow

part fictional itself; informed by the same DNA, yet

free-form, experimental, often incomprehensible,

unexpected - improbable as this phantasm DNA

of stars, bending Universal laws of gravity, space,

time, as if - as some philosophers have remarked,

it is all some kind of illusion - seeing how atoms

melt into energy as all things; first elements,

original molecules reworked – some residue

then of us in everything; resonance - genetic

transceiver, transmitter - remembering wings;

hands still trembling slightly from Big Bang.


Espionage has embraced biotechnology with the creation of a microdot which conceals secret messages in the immense complexity of human DNA. Enemies would find the messages "completely undetectable". The first message sent using the new technique pays tribute to the original photographic microdots used in World War Two. It reads: "June 6 Invasion: Normandy". The researchers proved the DNA microdot works by pasting the tiny dots over the full stops in a typed letter, posting it and then analysing the dots when it arrived back. The message was received, loud and clear. In 1946, J Edgar Hoover, then director of the FBI, described microdots as "the enemy's masterpiece of espionage". Catherine Taylor Clelland, at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, told BBC News Online that the DNA microdot team had not yet been approached by the FBI. "But we did wonder if we would get security clearance to have the paper published in the first place," she said. Dr Taylor Clelland believes that rise of genetic engineering in plants and animals could see another use for the technique: incorporating a genetic "watermark" within the organisms themselves. "It would remove all counterfeiting." The first step of the technique is to use a simple code to convert the letters of the alphabet into combinations of the four bases which make up DNA. Next, a piece of DNA spelling out the message is synthetically created. It contains the secret message in the middle, plus short marker sequences at each end. This is slipped into a normal piece of human DNA. The secret message DNA strand is then mixed with ordinary DNA strands of similar length. The resulting mixture is dried on to paper which can then be cut into tiny dots. Only one strand in every 30 billion contains the message, making finding the message a fiendishly difficult task. "To try and identify it within that complexity, when all the strands appear absolutely identical would be, we think, virtually impossible," says Dr Taylor Clelland. The key to unravelling the message is knowing what the markers at each end of the DNA message are. These allow the message recipient to use a standard biotechnology technique, the polymerase chain eaction, to multiply only the DNA which contains the message. This DNA can then be sequenced and the message read.’ BBC News Online


Word-spies –

James Bond, 007 - encrypted,

not stirred –

who is the job

as American cops say;

genetically licensed to kill,

impenetrable - so no more guns.

Or just baddies, who are geneticists -

big computers to dissect, sequence;

perversion of heart messages,

slavery of the human watermark,

selling authorship of the stars,

because there is nothing sacred.

Corruption of the human poem,

ancient dream/word factory,

built for eye and wing -

practising Polar bears,

hummingbirds, flowers.

Michelangelo and Da Vinci

used to draw kitchen roll -

wallpaper patterns, cartoons.

Isn’t it a soul genome our eyes read

Isn’t it a soul genome

our eyes read -

in that light of an eye,

amazing flash -

like reading War and Peace

in a nanosecond;

10 laborious years

to read the physical script -

spirit understood

in a flaming instant.

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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