Through a cold foyer, we’re ushered in
and down into the cavernous theatre by a string
of young women in academic gowns.
Their smiles seem genuine. Something
not unlike a twisted ladder, we’re told,
spins invisibly at the core of us.
Each DNA strand, if unwound, would span
a metre and a half. We’re quietly impressed
and think of knitting, of surgery and love,
as one single cell appears, wall-high,
before us. This is the culmination of countless
experiments by computer animators
and geneticists. The projection falters again—
a black-clad technician rushes up,
hunched over, as if in obeisance, then
disappears. The laser pointer hovers
shakily for a moment over indigenous,
as the speaker mentions ethics, then moves on.
We’re reassured Exxon is developing
a synthetic organism that could replace oil.
Another professor sniffs into a handkerchief,
blows her nose. One roving microphone
and ten minutes for the history and future
of genetics, as the house lights come up on us.
We can’t help but gaze at each other’s arms
and faces. Lights shine and turn on the surface
of our eyes. We are all strangely alive.
All our very good questions are answered
confidently. At the exit, a metallic tree
of coathangers, a sign disclaiming
responsibility. We lift our heavy coats—
the hangers chime.
Image credit: Paul VanDerWerf