T H E   N I H    C A T A L Y S T N O V E M B E R -  D E C E M B E R    1 9 9 8 



Laureates: Robert Pinsky (left), signer Derwood O'Quinn, and Harold Varmus, NIH, June 1998

There was poetry in the campus air—and on the Catalyst pages—in the verdant spring of '98. In anticipation of the arrival of U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky to deliver the season's final Wednesday Afternoon Lecture in late June, the Catalyst put out a call to all the NIH poets hidden in labs and behind desks. We asked that they submit their poetry for publication in the issue that would coincide with the Pinsky reading (the May­June 1998 issue). Some poetic souls did, and the result was a page of whimsy and interdisciplinary splendor. Several, perhaps shyer, individuals sent poems in after the issue had closed. We put these away for a rainy, or snowy, day. Here's one set. (The last will likely appear next issue, accompanying an interview with the poet, who is leaving his day job as director of the Office of Alternative Medicine.)


Alexander Wilson

teoP the alchemist

like ancient elixirs,
distilled emotions
  (intensely boiling).

stirring imagination
with quicksilvered grace


"fox fire phrases in darkness,
bring unfound light to life."

bottled essence of emotion,
touchstone testing

  (lead or gold?)

tempest of creation

the philosophers' stone.


a.f. wilson


the training wheels came off today
and she got on her bike and just rode away

all legs and elbows
blond hair and red bows
streaming out like signal flags
waving in the wind

she promised to try when she turned seven
promised to fly
alone and unsteadied

and she grew taller in the distance

a day so much like all the others
a promise kept for fathers and mothers

some memories
like the girl on the bike
grow brighter
as they get farther away

a.f. wilson



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