Intron Moment

When I get off the phone with my wife I think
Of DNA, the great lengths that don’t matter,
That even its magniloquent scholars call “junk,”
So much that if you listened to the language
Of life you’d hear the ums between words, confabulation,
What we say when we’ve nothing to say,
As when she calls at lunch and asks How are things?
And I claim, Fine, as I would with the building
In flames. We ping pong pleasantries for five minutes
Then I return to putting out the day’s fires
Only now pondering lives we spend mostly
Apart just to make enough to have a life,
Something like divorce with marriage spliced in
Mornings and nights. I.e. she’s a stranger
And how do I know she’s not disbursing government
Secrets in coded want ads, begging exegesis
From her cult’s high priest, or running a house
Of ill repute by the shipyard? Mingling
Our loose strands, we become a stranger strangeness
Though scientists have begun to guess
At the hidden purpose in those stretches
Of fallow chromosome they also call introns,
A refreshingly arcane and important name
I attach to this break I take from a day
That started as the pieces we call hours
And put together by staying whole. The part
Where the phone rings isn’t the story’s moral,
Just abiding distraction, as if Sisyphus let go
Of the stone whose rolling went unnoticed
As he flipped open his cell and told his wife
What would bore anyone else, scientists
For instance studying mating rituals in fruit flies,
Or G-men eavesdropping through a wall.
But such twaddle sufficiently scrutinized turns out
To be a cipher for life, itself the redundant
Though universal meaning, as if at the most
Intimate level, nothing is everything.

                                                          —David Moolten

  1. I like the sense of pointlessness in this – which cannot be said for the poem itself. Enjoyed it.

  2. It is late, very late, and I’m very tired. First prompt poem I’ve read, and just can’t delay saying something here.

    David, what a wonderful romp, just like a double-helix ride! So many delightful twists and turns down this Matterhorn! I’m going to have to read this again and again a few more times but must pause a moment at least now to say my thanks.

    “you’d hear the ums between words
    “And I claim, Fine, as I would with the building In flames
    “as if at the most Intimate level, nothing is everything.

    Just some of my favorite lines! And a subject I adore as we find ourselves not quite as smart as we thought. Amusing how nothing matters so much as it does! Delightful David!

    • Neil,

      Thanks for your enthusiastic response. I had fun writing it. I decided to do something a little more upbeat this week.

  3. derrick2 said:

    Hi David,

    I marvel that you take the word “abiding” and weave it into this! (Just as you did with Marilyn’s “porous” dress.) What a fascinating life your wife might be leading, down at the shipyard or trading secrets of another kind? Seems to me you have plenty of intron moments yourself!

    • Hi Derrick,

      Thanks for your kind remarks. I find it much easier to take one word and run with it, though I realized afterward that I had overlooked telephone as one of the words, and coincidentally used it (or part of it) in the poem anyway…

  4. Wow.

    I get a sense of disconnectedness in this poem…somehow it brings to mind the refrain from the Book of Ecclesiastes — “Everything is meaningless” (or in the King James translation, “all is vanity”) and you communicated that well. So much from one word. I enjoyed reading this.


    • Hi Nicole,

      Thank you. The odd thing is how we attach meaning to the meaningless, and then voila, it has meaning, or does to us, but also how nature does to us what Lucy does to Charlie Brown with the football; we think we have it figured out, and…we don’t have it figured out.

  5. A great example of why poets should keep up with scientific discoveries: it makes for some great material! Also, minor note: I love “twaddle” — the word, but possibly also whatever it designates. I class it with smut and tripe among my favorite maligned things.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you. I have often tried to insulate my poetry self from my doctor self, as there are natural clashes. But sometimes I can get something out of bringing them together. As for twaddle, it seems language is richest when it comes to nasty stuff.

  6. This is kind of goofy, but I ended up watching an old Star Trek episode the other day where they talk about introns. Your take on it is much better, though. 🙂 The “um”s are so much more important than people realize…

    • Hi Joseph,

      Star Trek actually had a pretty good handle on science, all things considered. As for the “ums,” I’ve come to realize place-holders, like holders in general, have an unsung yet invaluable function.

  7. Jerry said:

    I’m so impressed. You have a knack for turning something as mundane as the wife’s daily phone call into a springboard for other mundane observations, all of which resonate well with that predicament common to us all: the human condition. It reminds of Billy Collins a little. This is what I aspire to communicate as well.

    There are so many enjoyable lines, I don’t know where to start. “ping pong pleasantries” is a perfect example!

    • Hi Jerry,

      Thanks so much. I’m honored by the Billy Collins comparison. Not everyone is a fan, as some don’t consider him “serious” enough. I’m in the other camp though, and think he’s slyly quite profound; he just manages to be accessible too.

  8. Well tuned monument to life. I so enjoyed this piece, found my head nodding while my mouth said, yes, yes.

  9. Linda said:

    I’m hoping your wife doesn’t know Tiger Woods. I loved your poem and enjoyed sharing it. The words spoke of the regret of having to spend so much time away from love, because of the need to work. In the end nothing really IS everything and Tiger Woods doesn’t know this. Thanks for sharing, David!

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you. I agree. Tiger Woods, like a lot of people, is focused on his “importance” and things of importance in general, ego, vanity, conquest. Love, truth, patience and other trifles get missed in the process.

  10. If junk be not junk nor trash trash, then must we not cease to debunk bunk? And if bunk once ceases to be debunked, must we not see in time ‘twas ping-pong all along?

    • Surely there’s much zen wisdom to be wrung from ping pong; it’s just a matter of time until someone gets to it.

  11. Irene said:

    The end. It’s as if you’ve said something we all knew and didn’t know how to say. What a gift of a poem.

  12. karen said:

    I really love the form of this – the jumble of images that illustrates the pointlessness of a “divorce with marriage spliced in.” I think my favorite part is the image of Sisyphus blabbing away on the phone while stone rolled away unnoticed.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks so much. I think poetry is kind of like DNA; essential but strangely intertwined.

  13. zouxzoux said:

    “…at the most
    Intimate level, nothing is everything.”

    And all the previous observations were vindicated by this last, one line. Genius!

  14. David, does your wife read your poetry?

    “Only now pondering lives we spend mostly, Apart just to make enough to have a life”.

    Zeus, how I love those lines. I relate.

    “Mingling our loose strands, we become a stranger strangeness.”

    You have taken the rusty knife of complacency and cleaned the fingernails of marital relationship. One day you and I will sit and have a beer, or what ever melts your butter. I have a desire to pare the skin of wisdom from your apple of observation. You truly have the gift, the poetic eye. Thanks for the honest sharing.
    Seasons greetings,

    • Hi Donald,

      Thank you for your both generous and felicitous remarks. They are almost like a poem themselves. Next time you expect to be in the vicinity to visit your daughter, please let me know. It would be a pleasure to meet you. While medicine is my bread and butter, poetry is my heart. Or to paraphrase William Carlos Williams, medicine is my avocation, poetry my life’s work.

      Hope you and your family have a pleasant holiday and great new year.

      Peace, David

  15. Jeeves said:

    Seem to connect with these lines the most

    Though universal meaning, as if at the most
    Intimate level, nothing is everything.

  16. Sounds as if you need a holiday in the sun! When you are in this frame of mind do not watch Roman Polanski’s ‘Belle de Jour’. I liked this poem and all the humorous episodes especially the one with the wife being a Madam on the side or a secret government agent.I think you’re a bit of a secret scallywag.Thank God,I was getting worried there for a while.Now I can look forward to the injection of more insanity into your poems.Merry Xmas David,I’m toasting you with a gin cocktail!

    • Hi Rall,

      Thank you. Now there’s another Belle de Jour apparently causing a stir, a brilliant scientist who put herself through school as a call girl. Fortunately, thanks to the part of life I didn’t put in the poem (the part where you know all you need to without knowing, the trust part, which science tends to skirt) I’m fairly certain my wife is doing what she’s supposed to be doing, and still has time to get after me for my various shortcomings, none of enormous interest to the scandal sheets, sorry to say. In all seriousness, I am hoping to add a little more lunacy here and there, just to spice things up (in the poems, I mean).

  17. This, This…

    >>> when she calls at lunch and asks How are things?
    And I claim, Fine, as I would with the building
    In flames. We ping pong pleasantries for five minutes
    Then I return to putting out the day’s fires <<<<

    were the first words that struck me and then, so many resounding chords… so many questions I never bothered asking and makes me wonder, "What if I had lived these questions, spoken similar words aloud, what then, what then?"

    Appreciate the evocative journey (which I know will continue speaking to me.)

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your as always generous remarks.

  18. Dick said:

    As Dave Bonta says, good to see science getting a poetic shakedown! This is beautifully composed – a tight, disciplined structure contains and directs a wonderfully ambulatory exposition of theme. Very enjoyable.

    • Hi Dick,

      Thank you for your kind and articulate analysis.

  19. Doctors have a knack for understanding the minutiae of the body. It’s not surprising that a doctor-poet could shed such brilliant light on the minutiae that grows between two intimates. This resonates for me in a lot of ways. Thanks. Now I’ll have to read up on introns; never heard of them before.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for your generous and insightful comments about doctors, and about the poem.

  20. David, I love the intron as metaphor here. All that non-communicative stuff that fills our conversations, pillowing the “content.” And if we want to believe that the medium is the “massage,” the intron moment is a very important part of who and how our genetic community lives itself out in us.

    Masterful rendition. I particularly was taken by these lines:

    And how do I know she’s not disbursing government
    Secrets in coded want ads, begging exegesis
    From her cult’s high priest, or running a house
    Of ill repute by the shipyard?

    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you, for your kind take on the poem, and for your insight.

  21. wayne said:

    great ride David….do not know where I ended up and how I got there…..but thats allllllllllll good …thanks for sharing this

  22. I had to read this a second time, b.c. I was too tired to comment the first time I read it. What a way to link life, marriage to DNA and fallow bits at that. You have an interesting perspective and I enjoy reading your poetry.

    • Thanks for reading it (twice) and for taking the time to comment.

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