The Krebs Cycle.

I'm happy to say poetry night was a success! Sapo was an amazing act -- almost like some forgotten strain of vaudeville that had evolved in a forest after a hundred years away from outside influences. It was a strange and wonderful honour for our humble poetry group to open for them.

As for my poem, I'm quite happy with it, since it was the culmination of a challenge I'd given myself months ago: Write a poem about the Krebs Cycle.

What a beauty, eh?

Simply put, the Krebs cycle is how the body breaks down glucose to produce energy. It's a vital process, and it manages to be wonderfully efficient and adaptive - in its own special way. The problem is, it's also incredibly confusing, and ill-suited for poetry. But never let it be said I shied away from the challenge!

To make up for the cheesy meter and rhyme scheme, I'll let you know of a few curiosities in the text.

  • Most importantly, almost every stage in the cycle is represented by one verse. Each verse has a number of lines equal to the number of carbon atoms involved in that stage. (Glucose breaks down into two three-carbon pyruvate molecules, which is why that verse is repeated.)
  • The Krebs Cycle has an anaerobic portion and an aerobic portion. If the body doesn't have time to breathe, it relies solely on the less efficient anaerobic portion. The aerobic portion of the poem is bracketed by the words, "Breathe."
  • "Under strain ... drawn and quartered" (Verse 3) refers to the third carbon atom in citrate, which has quaternary substitution, a formation that is very challenging to work with in the laboratory. (Warning: link is TOO safe for work.) It would surprise nary a single chemist that the first thing the Krebs Cycle does with citrate is convert it to isocitrate, which has only a tertiary substituted carbon.
  • "double braced and inflexible" (Verse 7) refers to fumarate, the only molecule here with a double bond - and they are indeed inflexible. If a molecule of water is added to those carbons, it becomes a single bond which can rotate freely. (Verse 8, line 3)
  • The line about the alpha male refers α-ketoglutarate, because I can't find a rhyme for α-ketoglutarate.
  • I can, however, find partial rhymes for "Succinyl CoA" and "Succinate", and I mention an ox and ass eating at the end to represent "oxaloacetate". Good enough, says I.
And so forth. The only other observation I'd like to make is that much to my surprise, a cell's production of energy is (metaphorically) rather similar to a society's production of buildings. Does this mean buildings have to be "spent"? Or are they spent, in a way that doesn't require their destruction? An interesting question to ponder some other day.

But for now... here's the poem!


by Denton Froese

(1) There's not enough time
There's too much demand
The matters at hand are pushing the line

There's not enough time
There's too much demand
The matters at hand are pushing the line


(2) These problems have been solved before
listen to the future's needs
cycles rise upon the shore
and fall into the endless seas
accept the aid and join the core
of vast and mighty entities.

(3) It's hard to perceive the view from a corner
links aren't visible, only the chain
stability comes with a bit of reorder
to help and to be helped requires a change
twisted in knots, drawn and then quartered
shift under the weight, relieving the strain

(4) Amputation brings extension
the alpha male sends out its pack
bid farewell to what you treasured
the bridge is stronger, mind the gap
emptiness brings satiation

(5) The divine will go pray to rejoin the flocks
the towers rise, the city spreads
the trees shall grow with what is lost
from the huddled outward breath.

(6) With all this time in flux, the wait
pays off for those trapped in the mass
the old designs regenerate
and shout against the stagnant past

(7) Built for strength, a mighty fortress
doubly braced to waves and winds
inflexible in times of stress
or when smoke curls from within

(8) Submerge, dissolve, expand, forget
dance to the music of orbital spheres
turn freely and don't be afraid to get wet
take in the view as the ending draws near

(9) The ox pulls the yoke, encircling the field
back to the spot where the first seeds were sown
the ass eats some grain from the previous yield
and then back to work for the next journey home.

And there you have it! I hope you liked at least some part of this little bit of singsong doggerel... and who knows? Maybe now that I've gotten this out of my system, my next poem will feature some sort of emotion!

It will be my greatest challenge yet.

(p.s. The line "amputation brings extension" is actually taken from one of Marshall McLuhan's books. Apparently, I felt this poem wasn't academic enough.)


Stefanos said...

And now you have to add this poem to your next NaNoNovel and/or make a song out of it! After all, a song is just a poem with a tune. :)

alcar said...

Oh, very nicely done.

nutritionalis said...

Great post! Read more about Kreb Cycle. This post is linked there.

About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.