WHEN THE YOUNG GENETICIST WAS ASKED, "AREN’T YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR WORK?" WITH A TOSS OF HER SUN-STREAKED HAIR, SHE DECLARED, "NO, NOT AT ALL. I CAN’T WAIT TO FUCK A CLONE."
Oh flawed species,
who has fashioned spears from saplings,
notched points of flint, sliced
the coral flesh of the salmon,
pounded tapa from the inner bark of the mulberry.
With heavy brains balanced
on slender stalks of spine, we have gazed
through ground glass, listening
for the music still humming
from the violent birth of the universe.
Deeply imperfect species, soaring
into the noon sky like a silver god, bursting
the four-chambered hearts, the humble intestines,
of people we've never shared a cup of tea with, breath
of steam rising between us.
Wondrous species riddled with greed,
steeped in cruelty, still stitching
one life to another with bone needle.
After all these voyages around the sun
we continue to lie down together, swim
in the small oceans of each other's irises,
mothers drunk on the fragrance
of one damp scalp. Strangers break down
the doors of fiery buildings for each other,
siphon blood from their own swollen veins.
Meanwhile, flounder genes have been slipped
into strawberries to keep them from freezing,
a bit of jellyfish glows in rabbits in the dark.
Now we are poised to alter our children.
First, to cure.
Then a fine glass needle to inject
a helix of intelligence. A purified sequence
of perfect pitch. Double-stranded necklace
of permanent beauty. Or maybe just
You get the embryo out
where you can work on it,
make some copies,
tease apart the cells, flick a gene
on or off like a light switch,
pack it all up into an emptied-out egg case.
Life stretches back in a single
history for three and a half billion years,
and change has been glacial.
Hubris, an individual sin, a king's downfall.
Death wiped up the stage after each tragedy.
My heart breaks—can I say this?
Am I an archaic cliché to be broken
open with grief? Who will mourn
Homo sapiens? I can hardly
comprehend the loss of animals I've never seen—
silver trout, leopard frog, Pyrenean ibex—
each flame extinguished darkening the earth.
Now this terribly human species—did we ever imagine?
Can you bear it? Doesn't it
make you crazy? Doesn't it?
~ by Ellen Bass
via How a Poem Happens