Size / / /

Once our genes were our own,

or we were theirs,

horses they selfishly rode

into a Mendelian future,

but centuries ago we learned

the truth: the so-called human genome

was 90% bacterial. Who knew

we were carrying hitchhikers

in such intimate places?

When we reached 95%

it was time to do something.

Some of that stuff

was not pulling its weight, not

facilitating gene propagation—

actually it was slowing us down,

doing things we didn't need,

or doing nothing at all. So we

jettisoned that worthless 5%,

co-opted and improved

an inefficient metabolism

(we already catalyzed

many of its essential functions),

took over the remaining organ systems

(basically, we cut out the middleman),

and now we are really going places!

David C. Kopaska-Merkel has 1200+ published poems, short stories, etc. (since 1972). He won the Rhysling Award for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. His latest book is The Ambassador Takes One For The Team, a collection of speculative poetry. Blog at @DavidKM on Twitter.
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20 Mar 2023

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