The Human Genre Project


Chromosome 11

Chromosome 22

Chromosome 33

Chromosome 44

Chromosome 55

Chromosome 66

Chromosome 77

Chromosome 88

Chromosome 99

Chromosome 1010

Chromosome 1111

Chromosome 1212

Chromosome 1313

Chromosome 1414

Chromosome 1515

Chromosome 1616

Chromosome 1717

Chromosome 1818

Chromosome 1919

Chromosome 2020

Chromosome 2121

Chromosome 2222

The Human Genre Project is a collection of new writing in very short forms — short stories, flash fictions, reflections, poems — inspired by genes and genomics. Some pieces, though not all, relate to a specific gene.

This writing is arranged and displayed through the 24 chromosomes of the human genome, among which all human genes are divided.

The Human Genre Project is an initiative of the ESRC Genomics Forum.

The Oncologists

(After Three Oncologists by Ken Currie, 2002) Veiled in shafts of light, harbingers of death or life, the oncologists pause before the theatre’s dark curtains like backstage actors, shrouded in black.

Surgical masks sag round their chins. At the frontier of fear, experts in tumours, code, they have the faces of men who have seen it all.

These three spectral guardians, I hope I never meet them. But I know the spiral helix, I know the one-in-three.

Note: The Oncologists is a response to a haunting painting in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery by Ken Currie. In it he shows Sir Alfred Cuschieri, Professor R J Steele and Sir David P Lane, who is best known for his discovery of the p53 gene, whose normal function is important in preventing cells from turning malignant and is also referred to as the 'guardian of the genome'.




Chromosome 2: love remembered

I was ready to run When your two become my one I used a tool, you stayed And played the fool. It worked for you When your two became my one It was an all new us and them Around a fire we talked of our desire. End to end When your two became my one One plus one, somehow it equaled one Our love grew long and passed on and on. My distant twin When your two became my one I became your mirror your center is still here, My monkey love, my hairy primate past still stirs within.

I remember When your two became my one My new number two, a link that's past, We're separated by an eternity which went by so fast. Life was hard When your two became my one Wilderness was killing us, and Pieces of us were forged while we were one. I couldn't be me If your two hadn't become my one. I've changed so much, it's been so long, I shed my hair and moved away But I still remember When your two became my one.

Chromosome 2 serves as evidence for a common ancestor between humans and apes and now linked to sleep apnea in males who in some cases are prescribed with sleep apnea cpap masks to be able to continue breathing at night. A long standing anomaly for the theory of common descent of humans and (other) apes involves the differing chromosome numbers between humans and the rest of the great apes (orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos), which together make up the family Hominidae. Humans have 46 chromosomes, whereas the rest of the family has 48. Since primate chromosomes all contain so much genetic information the extra pair could not simply be lost. Genome sequence and karyotype banding data strongly indicates that chromosome 2 arose millions of years ago through the fusion of two smaller chromosomes which can still be seen in the modern great apes. The fusion appears to have occurred at the ends of the chromosomes in regions known as telomeres. As would be expected if two chromosomes fused, telomere remnants which are typically located at the ends of chromosomes and a second vestigial centromere have been identified within the long arm of chromosome 2.




Recapitulation

I am round and warm in the tide of my mother's womb, enjoying the smooth compulsion of my forms; I am Fish, perfect for this stream, feeling the flow of liquid past my trembling gills, but soon gone. Skin thickens, blossoms further scales, and I am Salamander, lounged across the rock of her broad spine sunning in her inky yellow periodic dawn; and I am Tortoise, carried beneath the waves gurgling within her, and so respiring on her moonlit beach I know what bloody trails I've gouged to get this far, and more to come. But pause for now, to stay and watch the dawning view — the moon, the stars, the firmament's interior we pass all ages under.

Niall Murphy




The DNA Cowboys

I'm a DNA Cowboy I'm a Clone Engineer Just pop your foetus in the tank There's no need to fear Pick the colour of her eyes From the chart on the wall Choose from blonde, brunette or redhead And exactly how tall Violets are red, roses are blue It's amazing what genetic engineering can do Enhancing intelligence and editing the mind We'll release the beta version of the new humankind

Just call me Clone Arranger I'm at your service Ma'am Just a little dash of Thymine Will put a tiger in your pram Or if you'd prefer a poet I'll drop a word in his ear I make Pick'n'Mix people I'm a Clone Engineer Violets are red, roses are blue It's amazing what genetic engineering can do Replacing evolution, which was operating blind We'll release the beta version of the new humankind

I'm the dark horse writer Of the DNA Express For the black sheep of your family I'll always do my best Or I'll throw in codon couplets For the long arm of the law It's the male they must go through And they'll come from his Paw Violets are red, roses are blue It's amazing what genetic engineering can do It's a romancing revolution, with love redefined As we release the beta version of the new humankind

I'm a midwife of modernity I'm the gene pool guard Writing whole generations I'm a four-letter bard So when you do your shopping For the latest kid in town Come visit the Clone 'Ranger 'Cos I'll never let you down Violets are red, roses are blue It's amazing what genetic engineering can do So don't leave it to nature, get your baby designed And we'll release the beta version of the new humankind

So as the gold rush gathers For manufactured spawn And towards the frontiers of the future Our world's ever faster drawn Will we be arriving in Utopia Or regarding it with fear? For producing good, bad and ugly I'm a Clone Engineer

Violets are red, roses are blue It's amazing what genetic engineeering can do We're tailoring our futures with live genes recombined In an untested beta version of the new humankind

The author notes: 'Written as lyrics for a Hawkwind song, but so far not taken up...'




Genetic Love Song

I've got lots of energy Though some of it's kinetic I've got lots of love for you And all of it's genetic We were testing anthrax spores The moon outside was full That's the night my sweater was no longer virgin wool You are so meticulous You never make an error Together we can do it We can rid the world of terror

I know you're a devil There's no one to convince Since I fell in love with your genetic fingerprints You're the one I treasure I'll never run away Since I saw your patterns of repeating DNA Hey, is that a genome that I spy upon your lips? These feelings are as frequent as an annular eclipse You gave to me your secret code that opens every lock You wound up the mainspring in my biological clock

Soon there'll be a little one You should not be surprised Unlike army anthrax I was never sterilized I will show my love to you with words I cannot mince Since I fell in love with your genetic fingerprints My love for you is virulent It will not go away Since I saw your patterns of repeating DNA Since I saw your patterns of repeating DNA

Michael Dare




Stones

How am I meant to encourage you to tell me what is wrong. I perch on the stranger’s side of the bathroom door in our home listening to you cry choked hollow sobs, the sputtered trickle of your sharp pee breaking my heart. Your bladder full of burrs.

Primary hyperoxaluria is a disease caused by a deficiency of alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT), which is encoded by a single copy gene, AGXT, located in 2q37 (Chromosome 2). Excessive oxalates are formed by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, causing a wide spectrum of disease, ranging from renal failure in infancy to renal stones in late adulthood.




Plans for Land

Like drums of air or swirling sea-tunnels or insect swarms or the absent core of a hurricane. Or nets. Nets twisting in the air and billowing, catching only the environment - whatever's there - moving as if from the intention of an agent that no longer exists.

Swarms of code. Curling 'C's stitched to angular 'T's forming the net, going for the catch, the catch of air. Cone-shaped code structures gliding, fluttering in days, picking up pieces, eyes on the immortal. The code ravages across the land, coded land, water-code, coded blue, intransigent. Sweep pure code down the banks to the letters of the shore, run it, sweep with traces of mountain-code, expel it. On to the vaporous sea crests blown to look like nets themselves, nets of codes, codes for lives.

He handed her her pint, he withdrew, sumdges of code on the glass and in the air where his outline had been, his lips smiling red, inhaling nicotine and smoke now in the black night-code extending himself in wisps of smoke-code, puffing out letters, wider, vaguer, more indistinct man, he turned codes, his own code, the stuff of Ben. Lips on the glass, lip-code, and is there a code for beer, Ruth? May I have your own code? I'll call. And we could have codes together against blue-black night-code, the anti-stuff, could beat it Ruth, 'n reach immortal.

Stand above the swelling sea-codes, coiled, stand out amidst the water, intransigent solid wet code, very cold, can't push against it, trying my hardest dear.

Martin MacInnes




Meet Me at the Speed of Light

Meet me at the speed of light, where mass marries energy. I promise I’ll be on time. Music is math, and ribosomes play amino acids note by note to compose proteins. There’s a gene that rules rhythm in a worm’s life: eating, excreting, laying eggs. An electron and a positron

collide in a bar. Both particles disappear. Get it? I’m caught between the here and now. I’ve come to this table with nothing but piecemeal knowledge in my pockets. Gambling on pulses of glands and orifices. A few more read and a few more shed.

One can’t remain forever in a state of paroxysm. The Brain Institute wants molecular control of your behavior. Talking to God is a habit, running our mouths the way a toilet runs. See how quickly the tables turn? Indoor plumbing was our real estrangement from the weather. It’s a sore spot where you put your finger. Don’t hold back.




Barbed Wire

My barbed wire of DNA Encompasses and delimits me. With shortcomings written in code, I concoct a life within these boundaries, Of opportunities and misconceptions, Encoded and scripted from a brief whim, Empowered hope embodied in double strands, Wound around each other like paired lovers. Transparent to light and yet, Their messages sometimes sorely visible, Randomly delivered by the postman of time.

David C. Sands




Anticipation

Something to look forward to: chocolate cake, Christmas, visits from friends, a newborn with ten fingers, ten toes, more than thirty-five CAG trinucleotide repeats , hovering at the threshold on chromosome four, waiting to be let in later, or sooner. Waiting till I’m thirty-five, more or less. Ten years older than Mum was when she had me.

I was only ten when Mum went funny. At first the doctor said it was coping with us kids — six by then — that made her mutter, fidget, prone to weeping as she fried bread for tea, yet left her dry when she dropped the teapot, passed down from the mum barely known, who died in a car crash before she had a chance to turn out, like Great Grandpa

Twitch. A nickname easily remembered, its reason put away, until appointments at Queen Square exposed family history that I didn’t care to own, but took the tests all of a rush, my unborn child needing to know. So now I’m aware, better prepared, making plans for baby.

Caroline Litman




Recapitulation

I am round and warm in the tide of my mother's womb, enjoying the smooth compulsion of my forms; I am Fish, perfect for this stream, feeling the flow of liquid past my trembling gills, but soon gone. Skin thickens, blossoms further scales, and I am Salamander, lounged across the rock of her broad spine sunning in her inky yellow periodic dawn; and I am Tortoise, carried beneath the waves gurgling within her, and so respiring on her moonlit beach I know what bloody trails I've gouged to get this far, and more to come. But pause for now, to stay and watch the dawning view — the moon, the stars, the firmament's interior we pass all ages under.

Niall Murphy




When she left her children

with their father, she was no mother, rather, a half filled shell.

When she left, his vengeance triggered her guilt daily, shell casings scattered where the children wanted to play. When she left, she was no mother, rather, a nymph lying fetal in her shell beneath the sea of all.

When she left, her children tucked their little turtle heads inside their shells and blindly braved their way.




Sickle cell

For a time, the babies died so fast they were called by one name: ogbanje. The reaper thrust his double sickles into their infant blood and shore the breath from each tiny chest. Mothers blessed with the cure – just one diseased allele, a savior from malaria – were made to bury baby after baby, search for iyi-uwa:

the thing which binds the spirit of a dead child to the world, to haunt his mother survivor, forever, and take the poisoned child’s corpse, the rag doll, bit of small toy, and burn it.

Sickle cell anaemia is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. Carriers, who have one copy of the normal HBB gene (Hb A) and one copy of Hb S, are described as having sickle cell trait and do not express disease symptoms, but a person that receives the defective gene from both father and mother develops the disease. The HBB gene is found in region 15.5 on the short (p) arm of human chromosome 11




Coming in Second

Body chilled by years of neglect, my twin lies in a hospital bed

trying to grasp how she’s come to this. The sum of my fears she’s the one person I dread I could be, save for some kink in our link

of genetic fiber—a palpable bond. Struggling not to catch her death of cold, I’ve steered clear of her view that our life was conceptual

error, yet I find myself more akin to her than sanity permits. And though, at times, I fall into that black hole of her undoing, I manage

to climb back out, into the asylum of my life. Out, according to my twin, the same way I exited the womb, climbing over her in order to be first.




An Observation

By now I've come to parse the human frame in all intricate particulars, all tensions, more fluently than my name; I see each thing that in the structure dances.

In the couple holding hands that I squeeze past, I can read raw animal calculation in how he scans the room; in how she dances, legs swaying, sweating in frustration,

I read the rhythm of a relationship: X versus Y. And in predation, grace. No, not versus. More against, like when you rest your lips against a forehead or a face

without moving for a second, then inhale, there is a scent of something beyond - a long sequence of ancestors, a trail of similar spans of neck, of hair

blending with the ones before, of eye matching eye as the music plays along the generations. And I ask why, why this game of half plus half is more than one?

I see the seething room, the smiles, and understand: we have the chance to give our better half, and get a better still. Planned or unplanned that is why, and I am happy to partake

in this binary science, this human art - the twin exits from the chambers of the heart.

Niall Murphy