The Ballad of First Cell
Born in a deepsea vent. Or carried here
by meteorite. Or, take your pick,
synthesized by lightning
in a reducing atmosphere.
Algae, that’s the word.
The first self-replicating molecule
on Earth. Pulling carbon from organic
a million copies of itself, thick
as autumn leaves on the Chiltern Ridge
or the pure gold bricks
Sheba sent to Solomon by mule
and storing genetic data,
creating the world’s first magic:
of atmosphere to oxygen.
dreaming like Billie Holiday
for who knows how long
of rhythm, pattern, form,
like something hoping to be heard
in a heart cut open.
The Arrival of Nucleic Acid
As if from outer space,
like the love which stirs
the sun and other stars
in Dante’s universe.
shed on quick seas
with enzymatic properties
to catalyze and duplicate.
A triple bracelet
of phosphate, pentose
sugar, one nitrogenous base.
Journey of the Cells
Meet cytoskeleton. A fibre network
of side-rootlets, mini-ferns
through cytoplasm, protecting shape
like a fringe sewn under the hem
so Cell can move. Why not call her “she”,
watch her wave her longhaired flagella
like the flicker-spray
of spores on mould? Her lamellipodia,
like clematis or jasmine,
power Cell’s division of herself
and all small voyages inside her
performed by vesicle or organelle.
But also, like bison drawn to cross a river,
with microfilaments at the ready,
and little cilia
projecting from her surface, Cell
may well migrate.
Slowly, her front spreads forward,
retracting, ruffling, bubbling.
Determined, like an old soul
moving into heaven
eager to notate
a valediction to the body.