Ode to the Totipotent Hematopoetic (sic) Stem Cell
Horizons limn the dancing sea
And hide the island home I seek.
The charted course to comfort me,
A stare ahead, a sideway peek.
And yet I know that venturing
Is all the worth a trip can bring.
Then Science sang from siren rocks
and caught my ear, despite the plug
nestled deep of orthodox
which churches plant, so proud and smug.
Orphans each adrift we are;
homeless, steering course by star.
The winds would change, and time was short.
The moment asked of me resolve.
So digging deep within my heart,
I chose, swung prow, intent to solve
the only question man must ask;
the only truly human task.
I’d have stayed my course, arrived by now
no doubt, had not that haunting strain,
notes of Reason crossed my bow,
‘minding me of a refrain
which once let in, proved hard to shake
and festers nights I lay awake.
The shore was barren, rocks quite still
upon which first I set my feet.
My bark set free to surge and thrill
with ocean’s breath, our first heartbeat.
Ant there I stood on solid ground
and hearkened to that reasoned sound.
Loud and clear the chorus swelled
of men in Science, shoulders broad;
vantage points from which we weld
new truths based on nothing flawed
like sense or hunch or inspiration –
with ridicule for intuition.
I sang along. Intoxicating
was the pace. It’s driving beat
relentless yet, bewildering.
For, lacking a refrain as sweet
as angels once about me sang,
the forceful notes about me rang.
For many years I studied well
to learn to sing with scientists.
My notes of Reason too did swell
but often I could not resist,
and ventured periodically,
a riff of gospel harmony.
For who has seen the great Stem cell,
Mother of our very blood?
yet she exists, we know quite well
because our Reason says she should…
Now is that not an old refrain
sung first by men whose God we’ve slain?
The men of science once were taught
to see and then to look again
and wonder first before they thought;
mindful that phenomenon
was easy spooked and hurried hence
from predicate’s impertinence.
Observation not of concept, but,
of it itself wends towards the hall
where wise men pause – no fools cavort.
And with them all who still recall
that knowledge without reverence
is sound without it’s resonance.
So, listen calmly we who scorn
the “meta” realms about our field.
Who fight the knowledge yet unborn
which reinterpretations yield.
For Science sings of faith no less
than do the pious at their Mass.
The Sphinx who riddled men of yore
(mistaken now for Camel’s Hump)
awaits an answer as before,
from us who chose to make the jump
from watching human suffering
to probing, poking, cutting, caring.
The Doctor, intermediary
tautly stretched ‘tween life and death,
whose lot it is to guide the ferry
nursing souls, thoughts, hearts and breath,
in piercing veils of God’s creation
should undergo initiation.
Comparisons of them and you
are noted for the common good:
in lab or cloister, bench or pew
devotees labor ‘neath a hood.
Ideals have called forth vows from each
and both must practice as they teach.
Men of Science, men of God
both see a world whose mysteries
expand and soar while on we plod
and tease our lust for certainties.
Thus Science and Religion each
grow forth from soil rich in faith.
And so, embracing both refrains
with love of reason, reasoned love
of God and Man, I hum the strains,
the sacred music from above.
And listen for the melodies,
the haunting, distant harmonies.
But for my Island home so dear,
and angel hosts that once flew near,
perhaps someday. For now, it’s clear
the task at hand, as students here,
is loving truths yet ‘neath the veil
as well as theories which prevail.
Bradford S. Weeks © 1987
Written in 2nd year U. Vermont College of Medicine,, 11/87
*looking east from UVM one sees a mountain “Camel’s Hump” which to me resembled far more a brooding Sphinx dismayed at our irreverent goings on…