The Word



The Human Genome is the entire list of three billion letters required to create a human being. All the instructions are written in just four letters – A, C, G, T. The instructions are encoded in DNA. These four letters in the DNA alphabet carry the instructions to make all living things. From a human being to a leaf – a tiger, Guinea pig, tortoise, dolphin or flower. The meaning of the code lies in the sequence of the letters. Thus, from continual adaptation of just these four letters by the creative principle of Evolution, are made the hand, the heart, the eye - the iridescence of the peacock and brilliant blue of a kingfisher - the helicoptering sycamore key - druggy sunflower and poppy eyes - the chameleon, armadillo, bushbaby - and the perfumed stillness of the milk-skinned lily.  

“There is no word used to create anything alive that is longer than three letters.”  Matt Ridley, Science Writer

‘Today we celebrate the revelation of the first draft of the human book of life… it is humbling for me and awe inspiring to realise that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.’ Dr Francis Collins, Head, Human Genome Project, US 

‘The languge of the genes has a simple alphabet, not with 26 letters but just four. These are the four different DNA bases…(A,G,C and T for short). The bases are arranged in words of three letters such as CGA or TGG…It is possible to write a meaningful sentence with 25 letters instead of 26, but only just. Life manages with a mere four.’  Steven Jones, Professor of Gentics, University College, London, The Language of Genes, HarperCollins, 1993 

‘…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 

‘In the beginning was the Word.’ John 1, 1, The Bible 

‘Imagine that the genome is a book. There are 23 chapters, called chromosomes. Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called genes. Each story is made up of paragraphs, called exons, which are interrupted by advertisements called introns. Each paragraph is made up of words, called codons. Each word is written in letters called BASES. There are one billion words in the book… This is a gigantic document, an immense book, a recipe of extravagant length, and it all fits inside the microscopic nucleus of a tiny cell that fits easily on the head of a pin. The idea of the genome as a book is not, strictly speaking, even a metaphor. It is literally true. A book is a piece of digital information, written in linear, one dimensional and one directional form and defined by a code that transliterates a small alphabet of sign into a large lexicon of meanings through the order of their groupings. So is the genome.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000 

Written out, the Human Genome would fill one million pages, 5000 books stacked 200 feet high; two hundred telephone directories. Read out for 24 hours a day, it would take a century to finish. It has taken scientists 13 years to decipher. The human body has 100 trillion (100 000 000 000 000) cells – each contains a copy of the entire Human Genome.

‘So although there are only twenty or so amino acids, the range of proteins to which they can give rise is effectively infinite. In the same way the twenty-six letters of the western alphabet can code the language of Shakespeare, and 10,000 other languages as well.’ Ian Wilmut, Scientist

‘To continue the linguistic, information-theory metaphor within which genetic theory was now to be formulated, the directed synthesis of RNAon DNA was termed transcription, and the synthesis of protein on the RNA was translation. DNA had become the master-molecule, and the nucleus in which it was located had assumed its patriarchal role in relation to the rest of the cell. It is hard to know which had more impact on the future directions of biology – the determination of the role of DNA in protein synthesis, or the organizing power of the metaphor within which it was framed.’  Steven Rose, Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism, 1997  

‘In the beginning was the Word. The Word proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever – the Word discovered how to rearrange chemicals so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live – the Word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise. The Word eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain that could discover and become aware of the Word itself.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.’ John 1, 1-5, The Bible 

‘In our culture at present, people find it somewhat surprising that an idea can be large enough to have both a scientific and a religious aspect. This is because, during the last century, our ideas of religion, of science, and indeed of life have all become narrowed in a way that makes it difficult to get these topics into the same perspective. (Here our window has become a good deal narrower that it was when Galileo and Newton and Faraday used it. They never doubted these things belonged together).’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, 2003

In Darkness, the Word

Space vagrant -
in darkness, the Word

Shut eye dreaming light

among a billion stars and gases, 
dust and ashes.

First Author - 
of itself;

principle without theory -
workings on the blackboard of space;

intention before means,
elements, first materials.

Earth and all her dreaming creatures
improbable as Raphael’s Madonnas

looming ethereal from mineral pigment,
the silver formulae of poems, skeletons

beneath as music is scored -
love’s organic consummation.

‘…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 

‘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.’

‘…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.

‘Nature gets away with it:/ Repeats each year the same/ Familiar alphabet// And utters, without shame,/ The clichés 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.

Stars are Written in the Night Sky

Stars are written in the night sky
like the first skeletons of poems.

The leaf, beating bright,
is a perfect green poem

in my open palm - 
printed by the sun 

on my own red hand poem - 
whose skeleton is like a leaf, 

and a bat 
and a star.

‘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. 

‘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.

“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.

‘IMMORTAL LOVE!….Press drop to drop, to atom atom mind,/ Link sex to sex, or rivet mind to mind;/ Attend my song – With rosy lips rehearse,/ And with your polish’d arrows write my verse! -/ So shall my lines soft-rolling eyes engage/ And snow-white fingers turn the Volant page;/ The smiles of Beauty all my toils repay,/ And youths and virgins chant the living lay.’ Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802, The Temple of Nature

The Four Letters of LOVE 

Only ‘L,O,V,E’ was the clue 
to such boundless simplicity - 

just four humble letters 
to carry our highest art; 

to mean the best of us - cultured
prize flower of the human heart;

budding and seeded
even in terrible dark -

for darkness fades into light
where there is love present - 

for love is light -  
as the letters of us 

are life: also
death’s seed.

‘In fact, our code is a sort of evolutionary history book.’ Transcript, Newsnight, BBC TV

Rehearsing the Rose

All the mornings of the world 
have dawned to write this rose,

ember of summer burning yet -
crying silver in her bed of earth.

In this polished morning 
of motherness and garden,

love and light still evolving -
in the thousand million years 

of my cultured heart: 
the beating red rose. 

‘[DNA] had first been isolated from the pus-soaked bandages of wounded soldiers…by a Swiss doctor named Friedrich Miescher. Miescher himself guessed that DNA might convey the hereditary messages ‘just as the words and concepts of all languages can find expression in 24-30 letters of the alphabet.’  But DNA had few fans; it was known to be a comparatively monotonous substance: how could it convey a message in just four varieties.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000 

“Each of the 30,000-100,000 genes is like a verse of the bible.” UK Scientist

The Literary Trinity

The Literary Trinity -
three letters forever

spelling life’s simple words;
from the magical incantation 

of eyes - called from the workings 
of light, yet coded under darkness; 

psalm of the hand sung
as bone-star, blood-leaf.

Rhyming egg-shelled wing with sky,
dreaming man, feather mechanism - 

all Earth’s products and volumes;
holy script writing sea into blood,

light into green, blue into water,
water into fish - tree, bird, man;

infinite literature of chemistry - 
improbable art of the Universe. 

I am written in the same three-letter
words as everything else alive – 

my family inhabits Earth;
in their skin, fur - green.

The Word speaks 
in the darkness -

poems come -
alchemising life

from love, letters - 
intelligent chemicals.

‘The human genome is a book - reading it carefully from beginning to end taking due account of anomlies like imprinting, a skilful technician could make a complete human body.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000 

‘We've now got to the point in human history where for the first time we are going to hold in our hands the set of instructions to make a human being. That is an incredible philosophical step forward, and will change, I think, the way we think of ourselves.’ Dr John Sulston, Head, UK Human Genome Project; Director, Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, UK 

I am written in the hand of God

I am written in the hand of God,
the one language of all Creation; 

as everything that lives is written;
over and over – in sand, charcoal, 

copperplate, type; sketches sharpening
from blurred script - watery, indistinct,

to the intricate and exquisitely precise; 
particular, high definition digital print 

looming from the masterwork
as recognisable kind, species -

the organic poem of you or me,
maybe once a leaf - fern spore.

‘Although the inherited vocabulary is simple its message is very long. Each cell in the body contains about six feet of DNA…if all the DNA in all the cells in a single human being were stretched out, it would stretch to the moon and back eight thousand times. There is now a scheme, the Human Genome Project, to read the whole of these three thousand million letters and to publish what may be the most boring book ever written.’ Steve Jones, The Language of the Genes, HarperCollins, 1993

‘When the Human Genome Project was launched in 1990, decoding the ‘book of life’ was a controversial and far-off goal. But now, with the announcement on 26 June that 90 per cent of the human genome - the ‘working draft’ - is in the public databases, the main chapters of the book have been deciphered. Not a bedtime read maybe, but the first draft of the human genome sequence gives researchers access to the most invaluable medical reference book. For the next three years, the Human Genome Project will tackle an even more challenging task - filling in the missing paragraphs and rigorously checking the spelling and grammar to produce the final ‘gold standard’ sequence.’ Wellcome Trust, UK

I am words in unformed dark

I am words in unformed dark,
my letter-flesh as yet unborn -

but my last fingernail half-moon  
already brittle; bright white fossil

scratching behind clouds of time,
like a cat at the right closed door.

‘The Word became flesh…’ John 1, The Bible

The Word is the answer

The Word is the answer;
bridge, conductor, key -

between nothing
and life; invisible, 

without molecule,
known dimension - 

singular concept
now blossoming, 

pre-rigged with being -
mysterious with matter.

Light even in darkness
glueing random atoms -
clustering the world
with chemical love.

We hear the page of the world opening

We hear the page of the world 
opening at our time to print -

as seeds hear spring,
light in the darkness; 

fumbling earth, 
water touching.

Now is the time of growth -
our own organic expression;

being a flower among flowers -
the illumination of being alive.

‘It is these chromosomes… that contain in some kind of code-script the entire pattern of the individual’s future development and of its functioning in the mature state.’ Erwin Schrodinger, Physicist, 1943

‘The key image… is that of a species’ genes as a detailed description of the collection of environments in which its ancestors lived…The genes of a species can be thought of as a description of ancestral worlds, a ‘Genetic Book of the Dead.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998
‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes, The Bible

‘The genetic code was cracked in the 1960s, when Marshall Nirenberg, Har Khorana, and Severo Ochoa figured out that three letters of DNA encodes a particular amino acid. A three-letter word made of four possible letters could have more than enough permutations to encode the 20 amino acids.’ BBC Science 

‘But Darwin had invented a new concept, and ‘everyone’ did not know how to read it, as metaphor or as force.’ Gillian Beer, Introduction to the Origin of Species, 1859, Oxford University Press, 1988

 ‘The genome that we decipher in this generation is but a snapshot of an ever-changing document. There is no definitive edition.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000 

Life is a script forever reading

Life is a script - 
forever reading, 

being read;
adapting -

revising, growing,
shifting, changing. 

New lines and chapters
recited in each eye, hair, 

complex interaction amid
Time’s enormous pages - 

light sampled, as blood 
identity, original energy,

life’s brilliant fuel
for any conversion - 

sound of a heart,
sound of a wave,

written on Earth’s 
stil evolving score.

One brush with a flower,
weary bumping bee fatly

transporting showered pollen
to the passing human sleeve -

altering the unseen masterwork;
sight of one unexpected bloom

might cause a man to declare his love
for a waiting woman - make children,

delete some murderous lines 
in the dark chapter of a head.

Our script so linked and curlicued,
we are at dance with everything -

spoken and unspoken,
in the earthly theatre -

original arena -
restless with art;

every syllable mattering,
always work-in-progress.

‘Believe it or not, the Harry Potter stories aren't the only highly anticipated series being published these days. On page 865 of this issue,  you can find the third instalment in another such series -  the book of human genes. This book is being produced by thousands of people around the globe.’ Nature, 2001

I am a story telling myself

I am a story telling myself. 
Chapters of hand and eye,

to last syllables of hair -
reading, speaking aloud, 

expressing chemicals
as iris flower, laughter 

lines printing my ancient, 
re-born face; figured thus

from the very start of things -
the elaborate wording of stars

blown from the mouth of God;
His ideas lurking in blackness.

We are books,
still opening -

being read -
and writing.

Books for others 
to open, crease 

and read -

Like illuminated manuscripts

Words fill us, 
create, are us -

like illuminated manuscripts,
written brilliantly in time -

our detail and colour, 
elaborately painted -

ornate with organic life;
gilded with some light

of different material,
decoration of spirals;

so few pages ever open -
displayed under eye-glass.

God is a writer -
life the printer. 

‘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 

We are the Word -

We are the Word -
poems called forth

from the mouth and hand 
of black-masked nothing;

as stars shining somewhere - 
existing invisibly behind light.

We are poems spoken 

We are composed poems spoken 
by the opening mouth of life -

the Alpha of star roots as mysterious 
as imagined silence of stellar Omega.

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it…’ John 1, The Bible

‘In the beginning was the Word. The Word proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever – the Word discovered how to rearrange chemicals so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live – the Word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise. The Word eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain that could discover and become aware of the Word itself.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000

‘But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze/ By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags/ Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,/ which image in their bulk both lakes and shores/ And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear/ The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible/ Of that evernal language, which thy God/ Utters, who from eternity doth teach/ Himself in all, and all things in himself./ Great universal teacher! he shall mould/ Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frost at Midnight, 1798

‘In our culture at present, people find it somewhat surprising that an idea can be large enough to have both a scientific and a religious aspect. This is because, during the last century, our ideas of religion, of science, and indeed of life have all become narrowed in a way that makes it difficult to get these topics into the same perspective. (Here our window has become a good deal narrower that it was when Galileo and Newton and Faraday used it. They never doubted these things belonged together).’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, 2003

‘Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. The sources of this feeling, however, spring from the sphere of religion.’ Einstein, Science and Religion, Nature, 1940 

‘In the beginning was the word.’ John 1, The Bible

Science and religion are married in the Genome (1)

The Bible:         	  ‘In the beginning was the Word’.
21st Century Science:  ‘In the beginning was the word’.

Science and religion are married in the Genome.
Like lovers estranged, enemies, they have hated;

boxers in corners, belligerent generals, 
scrapping footsoldiers, irreconcilable -

God hunted from existence by easier truths,
squeezed from vision - unsettlingly inexact,

inhabiting feeling and imagination - 
not something you can put on a slide; 

prove - though love is the greatest power - 
human citadel, force, undying heart flower,

yet cannot be discerned, detected, counted,
by microscope or scan - chemical or sight.

And who had made them enemies but men,
whose minds compartmentalise, reduce -

screens and firewalls of the panicked mind; 
even as the heart shouts loudly in the chest,

the soul exerts its own existence, simply -
as presence; burning with their own truths,

contribution to the bigger understanding.
Even this soul man feels inside his skin - 

witnessed more clearly in any eye than lens 
or cell, stolen, because it has no woven fibre;

white, silken - carbon-dated to the age of God -
when maybe tools to find such energy and light,

bright root of love and consciousness, its power, 
may not yet be invented, nor even yet imagined.

As the shifting Genome sparkled still, millennia 
in darkness, first root of flesh, and no-one saw -

chemicals and energy; biology, light, life,
have always been the living heart of God,

Who said everything so simply; 
He is Word and Life - is Love.

And all our picky labels, selective views and fights,
have never changed a molecule, a string of DNA – 

a feather is neither thing of beauty, nor object of cells, 
ornament or aerodynamic calculation, but all at once - 

that is its glory, whole identity; reduction is not enough
to represent - picture vividly - reality’s brilliant bones -

the whole of Botany has never yet understood a flower 
more perfectly than an eye, more completely than a bee.

But love of beauty grows with wonder at such structure;
processes of photosynthesis - chemicals, sugar and light, 

that make the flower be, unravelling her millennia of mysteries.
Embryology is art, to be studied, like Michelangelo, enraptured. 

We made this battle by ourselves - opposition, dichotomy, war -
excised the heart of science, put a stone where once passion beat;

curtailed God’s nature, meaning of His name and words - 
chose ourselves what was, or was not Him, or His domain;

because we did not understand, becoming cleverer - 
that big thinking, scope, perspective, grander vision, 

still exist when fractured chemistry and medicine, 
fabulous astronomy and physics, solve, decipher,

hook some shining elements of knowledge,  
so beautifully in symbols, theories, rules - 

we are looking at a sliver cut, but a sample from one
vast picture not amenable to such selective thought - 

creating partial blindness by a narrow focus - but
feeling confident to name, imprison God in words; 

man-made bonds, strictures, boundaries of meaning -
thus allowing men to call the tune, re-make the dance, 

that once, we realise, was free; music heard 
by Earth and all her jostling creatures, even 

to the last green leaf - skin molecule - 
converting light, orchestrating atoms;

even if we did not recognise the notes within the tune -
understand from where such strange sound might come.

Ignorance is not bliss: 
knowledge is heaven -

to read the illuminated script of a butterfly wing -
burning stripes and coals of tiger and leopard-fur;

unholy, blunt mushroom finger nudging darkness,
natural brass of the golden eagle feather - yellow 

light at the sunflower’s black heart,
snow in the slow fur of Polar Bears - 

is to see beauty’s shining skeleton, her plastic face - 
understanding the means of stunning Earth chemistry.

The Human Genome still shines, her magic retained, 
now shivering - exposed in the chill extracting palm 

of science; wonder stronger, more intensified,
seeing these words revealed that are the poem 

of us, of all that live upon the Earth, or ever have; 
or will, in the branching future of organic family -  

Time’s hair’s-breadth splitting between water
and earth - worm, fish, mammal, flower, man.

Truth is essential to God and Science;
God and what science studies are one.  

Truth is not singular vision; 
will not be encompassed -

simplified, stripped of its bigger, 
closer, messier, blurred meaning -

and of all ironies, science is so far the greatest proof,
if proof be ever possible – desirable - that God exists.

‘An increasing number of eukaryotic genes are being found to have naturally occurring antisense transcripts. Here we study the extent of antisense transcription in the human genome by analyzing the public databases of expressed sequences using a set of computational tools designed to identify sense-antisense transcriptional units on opposite DNA strands of the same genomic locus. The resulting data set of 2,667 sense-antisense pairs was evaluated by microarrays containing strand-specific oligonucleotide probes derived from the region of overlap. Verification of specific cases by northern blot analysis with strand-specific riboprobes proved transcription from both DNA strands. We conclude that 60% of this data set, or 1,600 predicted sense-antisense transcriptional units, are transcribed from both DNA strands. This indicates that the occurrence of antisense transcription, usually regarded as infrequent, is a very common phenomenon in the human genome. Therefore, antisense modulation of gene expression in human cells may be a common regulatory mechanism.’ Nature, 2003

          Naturally occurring antisense transcripts

I can think of several human beings
displaying the effects of anti-sense

modulation in their expressions;
what’s next - the mechanisms

for non-sense - the genes for talking crap?
Might I suggest a few experimental models 

among the general population to detect,
and study the Parlo-crapus gene family.

 ‘It turns out we can shoot the shit all night, stein after Stein, anecdote on anecdote, until the first light swarms over the water like thistledown on fire. Then the fog disappears which is, of course, the day clearing its throat for speech.’ Albert Goldbarth 

Listen again

Listen; crippled trees are speaking
to a dishevelled Moon and wind -

green voices in groaning night -  
tincture of animal, haunted man, 

weird language of werewolves, 
nymph-whispering - mermaid,

siren singing - some old dark tongue
we can almost comprehend, process.

We have recognised before, tree language;
leaf, limbs, faces - torsos, wrists, fingers - 

known spirit-housing, at dark alone 
in foot-muffled wood, among moss, 

probable goblins, loss of possible creatures 
of light - appealing brotherhood, praying 

to good trees, as living repositories of kindness, 
patience, for safe passage. Inarticulate murmurs,

understood when we did not know their word;
likewise bird, primate - but deaf to the mouse, 

humble worm turning under leaves -
word of them speaking our language,

written in the ancient letters -
holy silence of skin, leaf, fur.

Some Ingenious Gene Words for Growing Body Parts:

radical fringe; 


sonic hedgehog - 
pax, gap, even-skipped. 

Fushi tarazu, 
giant, knirps, 

Porcupine - 
Indian hedgehog, 
desert hedgehog, 

warthog, groundhog.

Shortarm1a, shortarm1b, 

Gene Research Paper Name Samples – ‘Ciliogenesis defects in embryos lacking inturned or fuzzy function are associated with failure of planar cell polarity and Hedgehog signalling.’ Tae Joo Park, Saori L Haigo & John B Wallingford, Nature, 2006;  ‘The A2453-C2499 wobble base pair in Escherichia coli 23S ribosomal RNA is responsible for pH sensitivity of the peptidyltransferase active site conformation.’ Oxford University Press, 2004

‘deCODE - What’s your name in DNA? In the seconds it takes after you press the above deCODE button, I will ... Change the letters of your name to the closest DNA bases... Search every one of 168,297 protein sequences from 8826 animals, plants and microorganisms...And return to you, the protein that contains the closest match to... the letters of your name !!.... 


This DNA sequence is similar to the protein called SW:PSTS3_MYCLE. This protein is found in the species Mycobacterium leprae. >SW:PSTS3_MYCLE Q9CBE5 Phosphate-binding protein pstS 3 precursor (PBP 3) (PstS-3). 






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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