From the LabLit science poetry series

Lloyd Graham 9 December 2007

I've transfected some cells with a new gene, and swear I'll
Get clones (well, so long as that tip-box was sterile)
With my flask safe inside our T/C incubator
I de-gown and de-glove and say "Catch you cells later."

Drat! it's only Day 2 and I've got strange results (you're
Quite often perplexed when you do tissue culture)
So I mock and I threaten "Your end's within reach:
When the UV next shines I'll take you to the bleach."

Since the cells greatly feared my planned chlorine-based dealings
They assembled in patterns that spelt out their feelings
Their message was clear, and said "It's wrong to kill, son!
Back away from the hood... slowly lower your Gilson."

Their words really threw me, being so unexpected
That's one hell of a trait that I've gone and transfected
It seems that the geek gene has worked at first try, and
My cell monolayer's now smarter than I am.

Well, I chatted all day to my cells and we bonded
I talked of my life, and in text they responded
They'd a good sense of humour, to dislike them was hard
Their nickname for me? Duke of Biohazard.

They promised great data, said I'd be impressed when
I saw the geek band lighting up my best Western
And that post-doc I liked? I was bound to attract her
The moment I mentioned my huge impact factor.

Things were too good to last; yes, the cells grew psychotic
Turns out they got hooked on the antibiotic
Our relationship foundered; dark grew the horizon
All they cared about now was their next gentamycin.

Well, I couldn't just sit there and watch them declining
So I made sure their cloud had a stainless steel lining
I farewelled "May the wet tropics bring all you crave"
And screwed the door shut on the small autoclave.

Each time I attempt to repeat those results, I
Keep hoping to hit that molecular bull's eye
But my paper's unpublished, it annoys referees
Guess there's no happy endings to geek tragedies.

Related information

This poem was submitted to a creative writing competition held recently by Australia's CSIRO for its research staff, and was included in the resulting anthology.

Other articles by Lloyd Graham