T H E   N I H   C A T A L Y S T      M A R C H  –  A P R I L  2006



Celia Hooper, who has been the Scientific Editor of The NIH Catalyst since its inception, separated from NIH on March 31, 2006, in pursuit of new horizons. With this poem, she left her best wishes and fond farewells to NIH friends and colleagues, and claimed great pride to have worked with these amazing people, with NIH, and with The Catalyst for more than 13 years.

Apoptotic Adiós


It's so easy to miss when you lose yourself 

in bleeding bureaucracy, budget headaches,

death by a thousand papercuts &

Maybe it fell through the cracks among interesting conflicts,

or its endlessly-circling-hell,

desperate for parking.

Perhaps expired I.D. left it mummified

in a peripheral pedestrian security cage

(PPSC) off Battery Lane.


But it's probably still alive someplace here,

so I frisk the grounds; peruse the faces;

look in the labs; scour the clinics and wards;

feel once more for a pulse.

Not asking, just feeling one last time

for the poetry of the place.


Working late, a colleague calls — Look at that Moon!

I look out, as the Worm Moon floods the grounds.

And later, heading home, pass a wild spring mix

of thoughtful faces. Late night labwork —

the ultimate melting pot. Some will keep digging

all night for illumination.


And sure enough, in some lab,

peering in yet another section,

she finally sees it! How it works!

She holds the moment tenderly as a newborn.

Humbled and exalted,

first witness to a tiny face of Creation.


Next morning I'm back,

¡Hola! (The cleaning lady tutors my Spanish.)

I pass through the waiting room:

 faces of faith — here for a dip

in the current-swirl of science,

their "last best hope." Perhaps today

the angel of insight

will swoop down, troubling the pool

of knowledge

to heal against all odds

through this awkward lab-coated agent.

Or, to translate:

Sometimes when Bethesda's moon is just so,

the membrane between spirit and science

grows riddled with rafts of traversing protein filaments —

hope, discovery, compassion, creation, insight.


So when I say Adiós, and walk away for good,

I'll try not to squish the worms. I know

somehow, as with the death of my beloved,

tears and years will gently debride

the grief, and leave behind

the poetry of the place.


Celia Hooper —


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