Blood Poems

Every person on Earth shares 99.99% of the same genetic code

‘Coordination and public data sharing - The Human Genome Project adopted two important principles with regard to human sequencing. The first was that the collaboration would be open to centres from any nation. Although potentially less efficient, in a narrow economic sense, than a centralized approach involving a few large factories, the inclusive approach was strongly favoured because we felt that the human genome sequence is the common heritage of all humanity and the work should transcend national boundaries, and we believed that scientific progress was best assured by a diversity of approaches. The collaboration was coordinated through periodic international meetings (referred to as 'Bermuda meetings' after the venue of the first three gatherings) and regular telephone conferences. Work was shared flexibly among the centres, with some groups focusing on particular chromosomes and others contributing in a genome-wide fashion.’  "International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium" International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, Nature, 2001

“…we all are essentially identical twins.” Dr Craig Venter, Celera Genomics, Leader, private US sequencing of Human Genome

‘The Human Genome is not the genome of any one person. Everyone on earth is so genetically similar that the results will apply to everyone. Samples from several anonymous individuals, randomly selected from a large number of donors, are part of the Genome library. The DNA in the libraries is gathered from male sperm and female blood. The Human Genome Project involved the DNA of perhaps 10-20 individuals…The current sperm and blood sources are obtained through a protocol in which a large number of people donate, only a few of these are processed, with the source names protected. Neither the donors nor the scientists know whose DNA is actually used in these libraries…Knowledge obtained from the human reference sequence will be applicable to everyone because all humans still share the same basic set of genes and genomic regulatory regions that control the development and maintenance of their biological structures and processes.’ Whose Genome, Wellcome Trust

‘Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself.’ The Bible

‘The kingdoms of the world are yours: each heart/ Self-governed, the vast family of Love/ Raised from the common earth by common toil/ Enjoy the equal produce…’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1850, Religious Musings

’That wise blood,/ a million years in the making, it/ should have fought, that oxygen-/ starved blood. But Nature’s/ a tinkerer, a shanty-town contractor,/ a filer of misfit gers, the original/ found artist. In oxygeneated/ salty soups, lightning-lit, when/ molecules swam to be shaped,/ and vines groped for the sun, she/ took anything that worked, or the first/ that passed the million destructions/ of her sweet time lab. Now white-/ coated intelligences to hurry her/ or remind her of the carbon/ monoxide that was not there.’ Ronald Hoffman, Jerry-Built Forever

‘Braids of vessels and cartilege descend/ in vanishing smallness,/ to grape clusters of alveoli, the sheerest/ of membranes, where oxygen/ crossed the infinite cellular web, where air turns/ to blood, spirit to flesh…’ Alice Jones, The Lungs

‘And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’ Genesis 2, The Bible

‘The blood wasn’t just that unpleasant stuff that under proper and normal conditions belonged inside the muskrat. It was the muskrat’s secret life forced out. The puddle of red sea was, in fact, a vestige of an ancient Silurian sea. It was kept as an inner environment when life came ashore. Kept so that even – though it’s changed to a radically different concentration of ions, a different osmotic pressure, and different salts – the old metabolism hasn’t needed too much reshuffling... the shed blood shows that there is not one death but a whole stream of little deaths of varying degrees and significances.’ Miroslav Holub, The Dimension of the Present Moment and Other Essays, Faber and Faber, 1990

‘We conclude that blood lives of itself and that it depends in no ways upon any parts of the body. Blood is the cause not only of life in general, but also of longer and shorter life, of sleep and waking, of genius, aptitude and strength. It is the first to live and the last to die.’ William Harvey, 1651

‘It has been poetically suggested that the remote marine apprenticeship of all land life is reflected in the biochemistry of the blood, which is said to resemble a primaeval salt sea.’ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin, 1998

Blood is red script

Blood is red script, writing;

deciphered from primaeval

sea, translated into human fuel

through every creature hauling

to shore - whose savage colour

is a mystery, fantastic variation

of the passionate animal, beating

and thumping his story on earth –

departing from the quiet flowers

who refined their salt and sugars

into clear, cool corpuscles, more

like our tears - somewhat aloof

from such obvious red passions -

while engineering heads donated

to floral sex, luring bodies of bees;

ovaries laid down among perfume.   

Our flesh is the covers of a book -

passed down through all millennia

and generation upon numberless

generation - everyone swimming

once as that ameoba, shining as

that star fragment blown apart -

to plastic smithereens of matter.

Communal love for the library

of mankind, the work in progress

of all humanity around the world,

is natural; genetic and scientific

inevatibility - moral imperative.


Blood remembers every birth, battle;

from one family to whole countries -

the entire world, spinning universe.

Incremental genetic change marks

the Genome - informs the Genome -

like a glorious sewn gown it weaves

the matter of the world - live memories,

in a shimmering garment of organic life;

trailing possible patterns, and potential

materials, working embroidery, jewels;

torn fabrics mended, recycled, patched,

in an endless communal work - created

through that amoeba with memory

of itself, willed in the first water –

in webbed feet, fins, feather, beak,

invention of the aerodynamic arm;

to the blundering heat of mammals,

automatic evolution of all creatures,

to the graven theories shimmering;

truths of relativity, speed of light –

described by blood as a scarlet glow;

bone halo surrounding calcified star.

Every word is preserved or adapted;

our blood will never willingly spill -

a closed system stolen from oceans,

salt script transmuted to human fuel,

iron foundation - bound yet by rhythm

to the mother waves; to wet molecules

dancing blue and silver but blushing

in alchemic light to plasma message.  

The heart is the house of blood,

whose rooms will never be full;

whose red chambers are never silent,

as the ear of a shell is never emptied

of the sea. Where experience never

triumphs over hope or faith in love.

Cultured for millennia like an exotic flower,

heavenly adapted rose clotting light into red,

to become the clockwork pump, wound

powerhouse of scarlet stems, blue roots;

like wind – powerful - but refined to invisibility;

sophisticated but simultaneously wild, primitive,

unpredictable; first bodily force - figurative crucible

of emotions. First bodily symbol, branded with love.

But delicate to the point of self destruction,

pining to unnatural death - just by one stop.

Metaphor and practical work

of Nature’s art; fueled by red

petrol evolved from sea fury,

tides, understanding of light -

gravity, power, water, energy;

perhaps explaining something

of its wild tides - combustions

of rage, uncontrollable storms;

machine gun beats - or quivering

mouse nature in unexpected fear,

calming to the gentle slush of waves

rattling soft sand on a golden shore –

or stewing in this fabulous elixir only

produced but few times in a lifetime –

like the drink of the gods - the biological

wine of love, dark as Shiraz but effulgent,

cultured from the very beginning - bottled

now and laid down, to sustain and nourish.

‘The dark act of the end is as special and prolonged as the dark act of the beginning, when one male and one female cell start the flow of divisions and differentiations of cells and tissues, the activation of some hereditary information and the repression of some other, the billions of cellular origins, arrivals and departures.’ Miroslav Holub, The Dimension of the Present Moment and Other Essays, Faber and Faber, 1990

Genes are the chemical ghosts of the dead

     Genes are the chemical ghosts of the dead;

     each of us bearing graveyard on graveyard,

back to primaeval swamp. No wonder

these strange senses - being stared at -

intuition, supersition; the supernatural

surviving through the ages of atheism,

electric light, science, such long ages as humans.

Even when there is no need, our genes remember;

even in centuries of sleep, dreams, nightmares,

recorded over and over in irreducable grooves.

From one root ball

Knitted through time, from one root ball;

trailing our colours, lace, embellishment,

we remain marvellously the same, identical

almost; so little separating man and mouse -

miniscule to the point of obscurity, difference

between man and man; yeah, man, the hippies

were right, so give them their dues - we are all brothers,

all one - Native Americans, Canadians, Celts - all right.

We are blood brothers, animal brothers, the Earth

is our Genetic Mother; let’s celebrate green DNA,

our synthesising light - conversion into molecules;

we can focus, connect, reach, just by concentration

of our similar grid - each man the same coordinates -

like a sparkling map of stars set; past, extant, possible

for all time; succession, connection plotted.

We sense that original light - each to each –

communication blazing; dim lights or dark coals

of misunderstanding - glorification of difference,

fitful attacks of light, fickle water, earth colour -

Olympic fire of evolved love, particular instance.

We are bound, each to the other, more tightly

than we ever could have known, appreciated -

Biology needing to catch up with intuition, compassion,

special knowledge of the heart, concentrated red beating

time, making symbols and fuel of love from a salt sea -

blood from white water molecules. She has crystallised

her form, represented in the external world by the heart shape,

her animal muscle and pulse in the overall service of emotion;

housing feeling like doves fluttering, passing in and out,

bringing messages, homing to the brain - mouth, eyes –

in her the chained ghosts, present, future of all mankind;

liquid red monument, tasting too of metal, first elements.


Blood is written with history;

biological struggle, survival -

prints even death augments;

four billion years of script -

letters coming from this light

of life, as glowing specimens,

all touching red fire to fire;

as the autumn leaves burn.


Every man in the street is your brother;

every tramp and king, film star or child.

Look no further for your family,

than all the nations of the world.

‘The blood corpuscles were caught in tender, massive nets of fibres formed from fibrogen, stimulated by thrombin that was formed from prothrombin… the dying debate of an organism whose trillions of cells co-exist thanks to unified information.’ Miroslav Holub, the Dimension of the Present Moment and Other Essays, Faber and Faber, 1990

‘The final stage of differentiation in the red blood cells of mammals involves the loss of the entire nucleus – casting out all the nuclear DNA.’ Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, Colin Tudge, The Second Creation, Headline, 2001

‘A nobler colour than all these – the noblest colour ever seen on this earth – one which belongs to a strength greater than that of the Egyptian granite, and to a beauty greater than that of the sunset or the rose – is still mysteriously connected with the presence of this dark iron. I believe it is not ascertained on what the crimson of blood actually depends; but the colour is connected, of course, with its vitality, and that vitality with the existence of iron as one of its substantial elements. Is it not strange to find this stern and strong metal mingles so delicately in our human life that we cannot even blush without its help.’ John Ruskin, Art Critic, Amateur Geologist, The Two Paths, 1859

‘It is the colour of blood that makes death so horrible. People and other creatures…have a fear of shed blood for this reason. It is a fear that hinders further violence when mere immobility, spiritlessness and breathlessness can’t. A fear that keeps the published photographs of a killing or slaughter from being true to life. The human reaction to the colour of blood is a faithful counterpart to the microscopic reality, the lethal cascade we so indecently provoke by the final shot in the right place. There are an extraordinary number of last things in anyone’s bloodbath. Including a muskrat’s. And if any tiny bit of soul can be found there, there is not one tiny bit of salvation. They say you can’t see into blood. But I think you can, if only through that instinctive fear. Lucky for the Keres, the goddesses of bloodshed, that no one concerns himself with the microscopy of battlefields; lucky for the living that molecular farewell symphonies can’t be heard; lucky for hunters that they don’t have to clean up the mess.’ Miroslav Holub, the Dimension of the Prsent Moment and Other Essays, Faber and Faber, 1990

Blood is a red poem

Blood is a red poem –

crimson shade a mystery,

conversion of primaeval salt-sea

molecules to a screaming colour;

hidden, wine roses in darkness,

but for blushing lily-skin pink -

as salmon light flushes the gold sky,

stains hems of dipping purple cloud.

Powering water, dyed with energy;

solar - photosynthesis to red, green

in the genetic memory -

opening our face to sun.

Wild, excessive - bodily drama queen -

her colour will shock, deeply traumatise

with one word spoken aloud

from the wrong place; sealed

for a reason. Life’s processes,

efficiency and sense, draining,

as the pump-muscle struggles -

root plumbing. But love altering

her chemistry, her sound increased,

life holding a shell eerily to the ear;

astounded - so vulnerable, in hearing

internal ocean thud on some far shore

unknown - shifting sands, geographies

undreamt; wounds of the future seeded

in the glory, uplift, pulse of fundamental

force; matching red molecules to another

fountain, astounding fruit - motor and emotion

as one organ, entity. Organic clock mechanism

fuelled by her startling juice - human petrol -

tied in scarlet ribbons, down warm red rivers,

lace tributaries, through darkest caves;

what fire when held before bright light. 

One drop spilled

Blood is a red communication -

startling warm animal language

written for millennia -

from sea’s clear water.

Why such colour drama -

nobody even now knows;

but just one drop spilled,

shows it never should be.

Why could I not have met you before you were dead

Why could I not have met you before you were dead -

your words the paper tomb, old wineskin body burned;

maybe turning back to earth, big skull still smiling on defunct

scaffold bones, crumbling calcium - that way you understood

each other, explained your mutual nature - earth to earth - man

to Nature. I ask for your hand now, beyond that earth, bat-bone

remain; useless skeleton now showing your huge almost-wings,

beyond that shivering life, like a face visible in drowning water.

I am a woman reaching for sneering stars at least; kneeling,

disabled, in the freezing teeth of night; a child still begging

for that strange orange Moon as balloon, despite the worried

face seen there - visible disguise of weird light to dead stone.

The print of your hand is on this sheet; without weight, mark,

existing like light, yet printing this page with so much script -

word of your blood, ghost of that blood kicking at my heart,

struggling still like a white bird; trying to speak, evolve, fly.

I know the skin-clothed soul

is a phoenix, always rising -

but so burned by this, I am,

it currently lies in fine ashes,

reduced to a shining pearl;

shrunken, cowed, nervous

like a scared animal. I talk

soothingly of moonlight –

dreams and philosophies,

of good in others’ hearts;

my summer water-glass of light

charging to be sipped as elixir -

but it refuses to dress again

in the sore hair shirt of life.


The killing of a man before his pattern’s due end

is murder of God’s art - a sacrilege by philistines.

Each new child’s life is its expression; organic

manifestation - the continuing mark of genius.

Death of an old man is the work’s next movement -

death of a child shuddering heaven’s whole gallery.

‘Genetic information often has direct implications for more than one person. Each of us shares many genes with our relations. Thus if one person in a family finds out they have a particular genetic condition or predisposition, then theyalso know that there is an increased chance of it in their blood relations.’ Medical Research Council, UK

Note from the author
exploring the project

    The Human Genome Project
    – Public versus private
    Gene Patenting
    Blood Poems
        Genomic Co-operation
    Holy-Moley-More God!

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