Musing on stem cells circa 1987

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:   Ah,  the poetry of our discontent!

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Ode to the Totipotent Hematopoetic (sic) Stem Cell

Sirens sang from science 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 to 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,

The 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…

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