Andy Duncan's Poems

The Genetic Engineer Throws a Cocktail Party and Drinks Too Much:
A Sestina
By Andy Duncan
(Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, January 1998. Copyright 1998 Andy Duncan.)

Not tenured yet, I play the gracious host
And press hors d'oeuvres onto this bovine breed.
From these homunculi I might extract a strand
Of code that would repay my time to splice
With a bit of frog, or other, better form.
These fools sail off the edge of the genome map.

My work? In sum? Very well. Upon that map
Of staggering acids that make up the host,
I impose a fine economy of form.
I inscribe a truer course, a route to breed
Caravansaries of lush and costly splice --
Such as algae that suck oil spills from the strand.

With funds from Biogen, I yank the strand
That weaves the world, and tugging -- thus! -- I map
The sleeves of our shapes as they unravel, splice
Our fluid dreams to lumpy flesh, am host
To all groaning aspirations of our breed,
Ennoble the halting rudeness of our form.

I hate parties. If I hand you a form,
Ask you thumbs up or down on each genetic strand,
I wonder whether you will choose to breed
Any trait here on exhibit? Can you map,
On the scrupulously bland face of your host,
A quintessential feature worth the splice?

Perhaps some sort of god could cut and splice
Her legs, my ass, your chest into a form
More pleasing, but without the holy host
The work is ours, and today a better strand
Of mouse, not trap, will cause the world to map
A path directly to our doorways. Let us breed.

No, this is not a come-on! Why, I breed
A test-tube spawn of millions. If I splice
My loins to yours, what is the thrill? Come, map
The contours of my bed -- an empty form,
Like the vacant shell that trips you on the strand,
Gutted, by the salt and surges, of its host.

What a host of errors spewing Nature breeds,
Each man a twisted strand, a knotted splice.
Your random form is straightened on my map.

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