I recently learned that one of my advisors and mentors is not only a great scientist, but also a poet. This poem was written a few years ago for his biotech company’s clean-up day poetry contest and won him a $5 gift certificate to Dunkin Donuts. I think it’s actually quite good and deserves more attention than that so I’m reproducing it here, with permission from the author.
Squeal by Jeff Way (with apologies to Allen Ginsberg):
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by cleanliness, crazed drooling wrapped in lab coats, dragging themselves through the late-night fluorescent corridors, pimply-faced genius-nerds high on phenol fumes and accidentally ingested E. coli, staring vacantly at the psychedelic covers of outdated Stratagene catalogues, week-old unopened FedEx envelopes, unstapled reprints, confidential documents covered with coffee stains mud and recombinant DNA, 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola sitting in ice buckets next to restriction enzymes in filthy, roach-infested labs, mouth-pipetting radioactive chloroform extractions while chewing a chocolate bar and smoking a cigarette, free-basing off a Bunsen burner while sterilizing an inoculating loop, drawing lines of cocaine on sequencing gel plates, impaling the palms of their hands with 200 microliter pipette tips, fingers pierced and bleeding from syringes full of cesium chloride and ethidium bromide, entranced by the paralyzing fear of order, of structure, of thought-limiting empty spaces on clean desks and in vast empty hallways, seeking instead to suckle at the breast of serendipity, working thinking losing finding destroying creating in a rat’s nest of science.