|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||M A Y - J U N E 1 9 9 8|
Surely biomedical research and poetry have more in common than the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table. Testing this hypothesis on June 25th, at 3:00 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, will be Robert Pinsky, 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, who will read and comment on his poetry at the NIH Director's Cultural Lecture.
As a preliminary experiment, we issued a call to any closet NIH poets to share their creations with us. What they sent represents solid data that the poetry-science connection is more than surreality. Their poems shed light-and laughter-on our lives and world. Lest any NIHers be so cold of heart that they cannot appreciate the beauty, economy, perceptiveness, or humor of poetry, let them at least appreciate that the writing and reading of poetry is a superb exercise for toning up writing and thinking skills: It works the senses, improving perceptiveness; it sharpens the eye and ear to eloquence and clarity in expression; it stretches the imagination and improves agility for analogy. Our call for poetry also brought us a sampling of poems written by pediatric HIV patients at NCI. These will be on display at the Visitor's Center reception after Pinsky's reading.
Judah I. Rosner
Marshall E. Bloom
The evening sun, low in the sky
Hurts my eyes.
Scanning the river
Bright yellow - white water
Glittering like diamond tears
in constant motion,
Circling changing rocks in shadow,
Lizards in the darkening light.
I dip my toes. Quick, careful!
The bottom is rough with pebbles,
muck. Algae-green and foamy
Coats the river like a pox.
But the yellow light
Call to me.
A young deer shoots across
the bubbling stars.
The trees deceive me.
They are not silent
They speak their lovers' secrets
Or in shouts-with flapping fingers
and jealous tongues.
They bend and sway.
They dance and touch each other
with bony limbs
Or flirt with a curve of their hips.
Five thousand frozen hearts in plastic bags hold an eternity of verse in code. Expressed within the selfish intron's tomes are stanzas, iambs, and anapests, tagged and accented in chromosomal choriambs - or chamber villanelles that follow forms laid down in pastoral and primordial loam cast off by scientists as second-hand genetic nonsense - Caesurae in The Code of terza rima guanine and adenine spellings of amino acids on sugar bones producing all of nature's prized proteins responsible for ills and antidote, and skin and lungs and tongue and arms and wings.
1. When I was a lad, I served a term As research aide in a Biotech firm, I scrubbed the beakers and I washed the floors, And I polished up the handle on the cold room door. Chorus: He polished up the handle on the cold room door. I polished up the handle 'til it looked so swell And now I am a scientist at RML1 Chorus: He polished up the handle 'til it looked so swell, And now he is a scientist at RML. 2. As research aide I made such a name That a graduate student I soon became. I went to classes and I stood all the jabs, And I studied all night in the biochem labs Chorus: He studied all night in the biochem labs. I studied all night and I worked like hell And now I am a scientist at RML Chorus:He studied all night and he worked like hell And now he is a scientist at RML. 3. As graduate student my mistakes were few, So I landed a job at MSU2. They gave me a lab and I grew up the strains And I analyzed the samples again and again Chorus:He analyzed the samples again and again. I analyzed the samples on an agarose gel And now I am a scientist at RML. Chorus:He analyzed the samples on an agarose gel And now he is a scientist at RML. 4. As senior post-doc I was bold, And gained a spot in the NIH fold. I asked no questions and bent my knee So they let me work on HIV. Chorus:They let him work on HIV. My HIV work went so well That now I am a scientist at RML. Chorus:His HIV work went so well That now he is a scientist at RML. 5. On HIV I built my fame, And learned to play the HIV game. Tat and rev and barf 3 and snore,3 Gag and pol and a hundred more. Chorus:Gag and pol and a hundred more. My papers all got into Cell And now I am a scientist at RML. Chorus:His papers all got into Cell And now he is a scientist at RML. 6. So, post-docs all, wherever you may be, If you want to rise to the top of the tree. If your soul isn't fettered to a laboratory stool, Be careful to be guided by this Golden Rule. Chorus:Be careful to be guided by this Golden Rule. Stick close to your bench and always do well- You too may be a scientist at RML! Chorus:Stick close to your bench and always do well And you may be a scientist at RML!-Marshall E. Bloom
1 RML=Rocky Mountain Laboratories of NIAID
2 MSU=Montana State University
3 barf and snore =lesser known regulatory genes of HIV
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