A Song of the Bones

Normally I would rather be mauled by feral donkeys than capitalize each line of a poem, but the framework of this piece is a 400-letter “word” stated in capitals: a mitochondrial DNA sequence composed of four letters (abbreviating adenine, cytosine, guarine and thymine).

This is my code, identical to that of “Helena,” one of “Seven Daughters of Eve” from whom all of European ancestry descend.

Interestingly, mtDNA governs the breath, producing aerobic energy. For further details, see the chart below and visit oxfordancestors.com.

A song of
The bones sounds
Through time like a shofar’s throb –
Tekiah, teruah.
An air varié plays –
Arranged for
The strings of our sinews;
The winds of our breath. Deathless
Themes of Eve’s flesh

Abide in
All cells, just
As scored before history –
Transposed to sister-keys.
A song squirreled in some cheeks
Transports us
To Greece; pre-dates Ice Age.
Cro-Magnon girl Ursula
(Tagged by caprice)

Came early
To Europe.
Go-getters, her tribe – Stone Age
Techs whose
Tools shamed Neanderthals;
Cave-painting travel-buffs –
Trekked so far
Their tissue’s consanguine
To Cheddar Man’s. It’s
Common there now.

A song of
The next sis –
Grand-dame of the Caucasus –
Gigantically, galloped
Globe-round. Hence, Alaskans
Are also
A line drawn from Black Sea:
Genetically Xenia’s kin
Carrying on.

A girl whose
Group crabbed in
Along the Med’s thin thawed thread –
Trapped with
The herds, tracking west to
Take rest near Arles - here
Gave birth to
Gourmets of a Camargue
Glacé, though its oyster beds
Teemed to be gleaned.

A mob that’s
Calls Helena ancestress
And her
Clan's chemical chorus
Continues in me. We
Across Europe – breeding
A throng with her cadence, once
Glaciers were gone.

This followed
A freeze that
Tugged Ursulines southward, where
They soon
Grew truculent, hungry
As crowds formed. Newcomers –
Tribes – vied for scant game, and
Clan Velda was born in dank
Arctic-style Spain.

Caught on to war then, when they –
That certainly – prayed. Their
Cries didn’t bring spring, but
At last warmth
Arrived. Ice-survivors
Cast furs off, packed light and hummed
Ancient road-tunes.

As vernal
Caused tundra to soften, field
Grass plumed.
Chill yet, but livable
The Tuscan hills sheltered
A fresh clan:
The people of Tara –
Green realm to be claimed by her
Tribe: Taran kings.

A later
Tribe-mother –
The girl deemed Katrine – beach-combed
Coasts, fished lagoons, worried
Game burrowed near Venice.
The melting
Allowed ascent: Her heirs
Climbed higher for ibex; went
Alpine and stayed.

There’s one more
To mention:
A Syrian termed Jasmine.
Through Ice Age, sustained by
Gazelle, her clan trained in
Crisp seed-heads for sowing
A grain crop nearby, and soon
Grazing flocks calmed –

Curbed rambling;
Connived care.
Aligned with these ranchers, they
Close ceaselessly. Sweet beasts
All thrived – as did, indeed,
The whole tribe.
Growth prompted sad partings
As second sons moved outward.
Agri-biz spread.

Though prior
Took umbrage initially
This passed.
Grange skills and tillage looked
Transparently swell to
Astute types.
Clan jocks keen on hunting
Got giggles when farmers tried.
Gangs harmonized.

Through Turkey
And Greece, the
Confluence began. Slowly
Amended everywhere;
The farm replaced the chase.
At first, though
Abundance spurred motion.
Astoundingly, Ursulines
Traveled back home –

A folk drawn.
The Alps then, Katrine’s offshoots
Took root.
Group Tara reached Eire, while
At North’s extreme settled
Clan Xenia;
Clan Velda. From fjords
And lochs to steppes, Helena’s
Children swept, too.

Clan Jasmine
Transformed them;
Gave fixity. Civilized
Affirm her legacy –
Germane to luxury;
Taste’s towers.
An equal debt’s owed to
Clan Ursula, dauntless through
Anguish of ice.

Those elders
And honed more than skill. Few, they
And maintained human will:
A spirit not fed on
Carnivorous greeds had
Comprised the sole freight of that
Animal sort.

A species
They’d known well
Collapsed when too dull to change
And died, while the clever
Colluded, conflicted
And lasted
To boast of their wit, by
Campfire-light. So purposeful
Action met hope

And clung on
An eon
Awaiting due payoff. In
Communities huddled;
Crept out to score supper;
Crept back to
Confinement, and yet kept
Their focus and fortitude.
Cave-lives were short;

Clan recall
Collectively wise – somehow
Aware –
They made that march north to
Grave-grounds of old kin; they
The genius of place in
Their souls or their skin, and went
Armed with a song.

Assurance –
Go forth; we’ve seen worse – urged each
Assembly, through pulse that
Changed seldom by even
A single
Tenacious T-C-G-
A. Ten thousand years mark the
General rate

To mutate
A base – thus
Concocting a sub-group. This
Tacks dates on relations
Among us, both within tribes
And out. Shared
Ancestry’s a fact; the
Genes show all people are kin.
Counting the rifts

Confides when
A woman’s
Two daughters diverged – one to
The code at your core; sis
As author of others.
Compare charts;
Call each alteration
Genetic generation:
Ten thousand years.

At some time
Appears. Mitochondria
Attest to cohesion;
Guide most directly to
Attention to other
Cell content bewilders. There’s
Alphabet soup

Throughout us.
Those parents
And grandparents sprang from crowds;
Accomplices – partners
Galore in all eras –
Took part. Their
Cacaphony roars in
A nuclear cell, but still its
Aureole sings

A tune from
The one whose
Chant breathes you. You’re using her
Called organelles now. They’re
Careening with proteins
Tucked under
Cell membranes – morsels in
Their orbs of cytoplasm.
Cached in all nooks;

These motors
Charge movements from prelude to
Cyclonic Helena
Composed more than her share –
To weed-common stock: strain
Genetically Jones, sure of
Gain without me

And mine. At
The end of
Genomic line through which not
A note
Changed – crafting lullaby
Chanson, anthem – I pop
Champagne to fake names of
Clanswomen who’re logical
Concepts men built.

They had to
Construct you
As reasons for breathing – like
God as
A cause, posited when
Thought vital. So it seems
An old round
Goes round, since strictly it’s
Got to. But not this song: a
Gesture of love.

Girls new when
The world was
Conserved nefesh first; their
Clans and
Chants’ variants blended.
The chorus between us
Transcended -- through kids who
Grew up when few could. Some
Adeptly inferred you. Brave
Chums, you did good!

©2000, 2011 Katherine Anne Harris. All rights reserved. And here's the chart...

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