“Backward Sonnet for a Forward Thinker” by Caitlin Doyle

Caitlin Doyle


“If only I knew now what I’ll know soon,”
he likes to say. His office is immune
to order, his lab the opposite. His team
built a molecular machine that walks
on strands of DNA. His childhood dream
was to become a poet. He gives talks
on nanosystems every fall—the hall
is packed. “Old ends demand new means,” he starts
(his intro doesn’t change). “The past’s a wall
between the present and the future.” Charts
and tables, fluctuating year to year,
support his points. He’s photographed for Time.
He whispers to machines that can’t (yet) hear:
turn right, turn left, step back, walk sideways, climb.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Caitlin Doyle: “When I pass the playground on my way to work, I hear children singing jump-rope songs and chanting ring around the rosy, pocket full of posy. When any member of my family drops an Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water, he or she can’t help bursting into song, just for the joy of saying the words: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is! These are the reasons I love poetry. Its roots lie in our basic human need for sonic pleasure, for repetition and variation, for sounds that stick in the ear. I write because I hope to lodge a few memorable lines in the reader’s mind.” (web)

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