Poem of the Week - ‘Revelation’ by Ruth Padel
You might have been thinking that we’d forgotten to post a Poem of the Week last week, but oh no, not us. It was all part of the plan. You see, this week’s poem comes in the form of a ‘double-sonnet’; that is, two poems in one, so naturally, we had to save up the space for it.
The poem appears in the anthology Adventures in Form: A Compendium of Poetic Forms, Rules and Constaints (Penned in the Margins, 2012) and the form of this particular poem is described by editor Tom Chivers as ‘a double-sonnet, stuck together with a single line in the middle. It is inspired by the structure of the DNA molecule and the central line starts the theme of the backwards running theme of the molecule.’
‘A ladder,’ the master whispered, ‘of nucleic acid.’
This was the first we’d heard of it.
Rain nosed the glass; wind lashed the trees
outside. ‘Four hydrogen-bonded nucleotides
locking on like mating damsel flies. But each
a different size, pulling the ladder’s sides
into a twirl, like serpents on the sign
outside a chemist who, for old time’s sake,
gives lodging in his window to the alchemist’s
glass jars. ‘He drew those twinned snakes
looping up the wand
to forest mist and shadowlands, where they belong,
and brings them back in dreams.
‘But one snake, the lagging strand,
is upside down.’ A squeak of chalk.
The pavilion, I recall, was dark.
Rain pooled on the mesua floor.
‘We’re conflicted from the start. One thread
runs easy, the other’s fitful. Broken tickertape
on which genetic script, your soul’s barcode,
emerges opposite.’ What did we know?
We longed for a match, a cell phone, anything
that glowed. ‘As in a mirror, messages
are written here and must be read
backwards.’ We waited for prayer
that never came. ‘Otherwise is built in.
Behold your molecule of heredity.
Two cosmic serpents, yes; but tail to head.’