Today's poem is by Bruce Beasley

from "Genomic Vanitas & Memento Vivi"
(Reading about Retrotransposons in Amish Country, in the Fall)

Cockcrow & cricket-scrape, dried
cornhusk at roadside, buggy-horse-gnawed
& rent down the middle like a helix in mid-mitosis—

It's said that certain genes can leap
from chromosome to chromosome, from
parasite to host (for yea, ye shall be

strangers, & also exiles) & so
accelerate the trans-
blending & the swap-

(grasshopper-shiver through prairie grass,
fiber-optic cable buried
under a buggy barn)

So this is no point
mutation, no single shift in the code, but a full
shuffle halfway through the deal—

Thou art a stranger o gypsy
gene, o wanderer, o jumping
retrotransposon, from

virus to leafcutter to sapient,
thou art an exile, interlaced
among my genome

(eight blue frocks, selfsame,
sunstiff on a clothesline
under the still windmill)

gene scissoring its way in
to wherever it lands—

thou art an exile
inside each of the hundred
trillion cells of me, an exile

who walks amid the alien
feedcorn & the nursling mares
& dreams in thy sporadic

rearrangements of his own
lunge home—

diaspora, toward some plainer
monocelled organism & my
chromosomes' controlled

breakage & insertion into that old—)

          —o sloth & wrath,
opposite & mortal, transpose
thy base pairs & let me slough thee, jumping

genes, off ...
—but Babylon, Exile, is risen
in all this meantime, anomie,
vanity, 47-times-split-in-two
cell-swarm, oh that Babylon
is arisen, & shall fall no more ...

Copyright © 2006 Bruce Beasley All rights reserved
from The Kenyon Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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