Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lamia on Keats

Apprentice surgeon, student at the Guy
where he was dresser; where he caught my eye.
Something about his hands—his face—bespoke
perceptions more than normal.
I awoke
his intellect, his passion. What a plan
I had for Keats, that troubled child of man!
Each day he labored underneath my sign:
caduceus of Hermes, wand divine.
I filled his dreams with serpents twined in pairs
like strands of protein helixed into hairs.
I made him mad with wanting Truth. The tools
for finding it were then at hand: the rules
of logic and experiment were known.
He worked his hands in blood and guts and bone
each day, deep-anchored in reality
and human need.
I meant for him to be
a leader of the coming generation:
seekers after knowledge who would fashion
vasty temples in the human mind.
His creativity, released, would find
cures for the illnesses that filled the Guy's
bleak corridors with pain and hopeless eyes.

You find it odd that I, a thing of Myth
would want to speed the march of Science with
a pair of hands like his? But genius
follows the Psychopomp's caduceus
wherever it may lead. I was his muse:
his field of expertise was mine to choose.
I looked ahead to ages that would name
my kin as legends, stories meant to tame
the ignorant chaos of the youthful race.
I saw that glory written on his face:
a torch to light the turning of the page
a hero of the new Promethean age!
I showed him how to read the saraband
of base-pairs on a chromosomal strand,
those variations infinite on cosmic themes.
These were the "Lamiae" that fed his dreams.
This secret, pregnant with revelation,
this model of divine recombination,
meiosis symbolized by twining snakes—
but see what use of it the poet makes!
He turns it to poetical caprice
with Science as the villain of the piece!

That's how he chose to write my story down:
John Keats, who could have garnered Darwin's crown.

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

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