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Biotechnology by Ellen Taylor

Biotechnology
by Ellen Taylor

“We would suggest that the problems of feeding the hungering masses have more to do with marketing and distribution systems, with ill-conceived pricing systems, with overpopulation, with war and civil strife, than with any inadequacy of the farm animals themselves.”

Christian Science Monitor, April 1987

After clearing his head with his morning Tai Chi
Noah breakfasted grandly on overripe brie;
Then, pouring a glass of his own Pinot Noir
He kicked the door of the Ark ajar.
It was April, 1987
And he raised his glass, as always, to Heaven
To toast his God, get an inside trade
Or pick up the Word on a corporate raid.
Now the Ark had alighted that night, from the sky
On the Office of Patents and Trademarks, high
Over downtownWashington. (Law was God’s hobby
And frequently Noah would function as lobby.)
His mood was a mixture of gloom and elation:
His family had fruited beyond expectation.
He toasted his five-billionth grandchild’s birth
But he looked down worriedly at the Earth.
He found he couldn’t envy the brat
And he wished himself back on Mount Ararat
Where the born-again eyes of his children were kissed
By a rainbowed world in a caul of mist.
He turned to his keyboard. His face became grave
As his screen gave the stats on what this child would have.
Chances are that he’ll live in a land, said the screen
Where half of the people are under fifteen.
He’ll ply the streets with an empty bowl
And his belly will starve his immortal soul;
A child soldier, quite likely, taught only to shoot
With guns bought on credit, or a child prostitute.
At birth, he might owe Uncle Sam one grand net
Said the screen. If he dies, he defaults on the debt.
At the door again, Noah looked out on the city.
His lungs felt burned, and his teeth felt gritty.
If Earth’s beauty palled due to cataracts
Or a morbid sensitivity to facts
Or the pickled state of a vintner’s brain
Something in him wished for rain.
He looked up, but he knew God would hold to the deal
And the Covenant’s irony made him reel.
So, as Patron Saint of the Elite
He turned to confront his own sense of defeat.
He looked for Shem, Ham and Japeth, his sons:
Shem and Japeth were hard at work. Japeth made guns
And nuclear umbrellas, at the expense
Of one trillion, to provide for the common defense
By beating all taxable plowshares to swords.
Shem, an economist, sat on the Boards
Of the World Bank, and myriad large corporations
Who buttressed the future of indigent nations
With funds for development, so they could pay
The interest on debts they accrued yesterday.
Now, Ham bore the weight of a fatherly curse:
(See Genesis 9, twenty-second the verse)
For surprising his father once, drunk and unmasked
He was doomed to do whatever his brothers asked.
And now Noah spotted him, in Rock Creek Park
Taking care of the beasts that had come off the Ark
He’d a straw in his teeth, as he sat on the bank
And the animals just stood around looking blank.
This tableau made Japeth and Shem look constructive:
Those beasts were embarrassingly unproductive.
Noah quivered, and spilled Beaujolais on the floor.
“It’s those critters!” he cried. “Their performance is poor!
The reason the world’s in so dismal a state
Is because those beasts are inadequate!”
The cows were complacently lounging below
Making milk, much like six thousand years ago.
“You bovinities! You’re eating far too much hay
And enough with the milk! You know milk doesn’t pay!”
He intoned to their dreamily upturned faces.
“We don’t need milk! We need cosmetic bases!
And those pigs need a ribonucleic overhaul.
Too fat! Haven’t they heard of cholesterol?”
He thumbed through his battered King James for a text.
(Creationists turn to the Bible when vexed.)
He studied the Flood as he sipped on his wine
Flashed back on the animals, standing in line
Ham, herding them, anxiously studying the weather
And struggling to keep the pairs together.
Keep the pairs together! Could that be his slip?
Should he have shuffled them up a bit?
The Flood. Coup de main of evolution
Should have been a genetic revolution!
Then, later, “The lion shall lay with the Lamb”
Instructed the Book. Well, confound that Ham!
He called Shem and Japeth. (Both sons were in shock
For the Market had played some new tricks with their stock
So, to take over Ham’s they were overjoyed
And Ham joined the ranks of the unemployed).
They toasted, consulted, deliberated
Filed the patents, and incorporated.
Computers designed each new creation
Inspiration on inspiration.
Beasts even old myths would regard as queer
Sprang from the bioengineer.
Hoofs and talons, paws and claws
Fused, to adapt to the Market laws.
Designed for the Poles, or for Sahel sand
They danced to the tune of Supply and Demand
Until firms like Embryogen, scouts in the field
Were bought by G.E (for diversified yield).
Soon beasts were turned out in year models, like cars!
Were it not for the thirteenth amendment, which bars
Said the Office of Patents, in voice ministerial
The employment of human genetic material
Since it would be slavery, in their invention
Ham would have been labbed, and placed under detention:
His genes spliced with wombats, sea elephants, onagers
So creatures could serve as their own Wild Life Managers
And some spliced with helices of turkey vultures
To watchbird the Market in primitive cultures.
While Noah discoursed with the Legislature
A little nostalgic about what was once Nature:
“What is natural?” he queried, in government halls:
“We have got Mother Nature herself by the balls!”

And the five billionth grandchild? How did he fare?
Did technology make his lot easier to bear?
Fantastic tales like this would depress
If an Epilogue didn’t offer redress.
While Noah collaged chromosomes in his lab
This fellow began planetary rehab.
The original species he sprang from the Zoo
And put back in their places, in pairs, two by two.
Then, stealing a custom he found rather nice
From the Eskimos, “Time to put Grandpa on ice!
Too expensive!” he cried. “And he’s trashed the economy!
We’ve been too indulgent with this kind of anomie!”
So, once again, Noah was marched on the Ark
And with his designer beasts forced to embark.
Geep and whaluna, two by two
The pigifant and the horsaroo.
They were blasted to Epsilon Eridani
Where he orbits, and guzzles, and sits on his fanny
Cutting and pasting the animal kingdom
(Bypassing ova, sperm, yoni and lingam)
And if he gets lost in the blackness above
It’s because he spilled wine on the genes of the Dove.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at ellenetaylor@yahoo.com.

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