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by Rochelle S. Cohen


I Hear a Symphony


Black holes collide in the cosmos,
like cymbals crashing and punctuating
the dramatic climax of a symphony.
Ripples of gravitational waves then flow
across the fabric of space undetectable
to our senses but translated by ingenuity
to an audible sound akin to a bird’s chirp.
A billion years after the collision,
we, the audience, awed and thrilled
by the distant song of space-time,
composer and conductor still unknown,
hear the momentary melody echoing
a concert performed an eternity ago.



Night and Day


For Dr. Jeffrey C. Hall, Dr. Michael Rosbash

and Dr. Michael W. Young


A five am telephone call

came from Stockholm in the fall.

As soon as the three opened their eyes

they learned they won the Nobel Prize.

The Swedish Academy made their pick

for the AHA! that makes us tick.

They unlocked the mysterious black box

holding the secret to biological clocks.

They revealed the keeper of inner time

A discovery nothing short of sublime.


When it came as a propitious surprise

that slumber comes to sleepy fruit flies,

Drosophila’s cycles paved the way

to how we adapt to night and day.

The hidden answer, the three did concur,

is the period gene’s protein called PER.

From rooster’s crowing it’s time to rise

to Sandman’s sprinkling sand in our eyes

by looking through a molecular prism

they found the key to biological rhythm.



A Summer Place


Family reunion, biologists and sea faring

invertebrate kin meet for a summer at the

Marine Biological Lab at Woods Hole.

An animal kingdom family tree, a getting

to know all about you research happening

that acquaints us with our aquatic ancestors.


Squid, perhaps the patriarchs of the picnic,

with their goliath nerve fibers - giant axons,

move fast and furious as they furtively squirt

charcoal clouds of ink at the unfamiliar,

masking their swift retreat, Lone Ranger-style

before starring as calamari for dinner al fresco.


And, in an astonishing evolutionary shocker

the acorn worm, an eye-less, ear-less, brain-less

burrowing marine invertebrate, reveals the secret

of how our mind-blowing embryonic brains rely

on “signaling centers,” comparable to those in the

developing worm’s molecular and genetic toolkit.


Even a bit of tabloid gossip, salacious headlines,

“Bdelloid Rotifers: Scandalous Microscopic ‘Wheel

Organisms,’ Survive Successfully Without Sex for

Eighty Million Years.” Like the mythical tribe of Greek

Amazon women warriors, they live in an all-female world,

and persist on pilfered DNA, pirated from other species.


Most remarkable of participants are the Summer Scientists.

Their minds are boundless vessels of insatiable curiosity,

with spirits of exuberant passion, persistence and purpose,

as well as, a laser-beam-like focus on fundamental facts.

Yet, they are souls, who see the beauty of nature like a poet,

and, who seek to understand the elegance of poetry within it.



Starry Night


They took us along on their celestial ride

To see and hear two dead stars collide

One hundred thirty million light-years from here

Van Gogh’s Starry Night made its premier

The astronomers detected a kilonova surprise

With sensors for our ears and for our eyes

A chirp heard from gravitational waves

Light seen from a flash of gamma rays

The reverberations sensed around the world

From two dead neutron stars aft they swirled

And collided in brilliant, burning balls of fire

Stars ablaze in a heavenly funeral pyre

Then came the rain from the firmaments

A deluge of heavy elements

Like a wind casting forth flowers’ petals

Flew platinum and silver, our precious metals

One day you are going to be so bold

And look for the illusive pot of gold

Remember it fell from the cosmos light years ago

And landed at the end of your ephemeral rainbow



Bio for Rochelle S. Cohen


Rochelle S. Cohen is presently Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was the recipient of the 2008 College of Medicine at Chicago Distinguished Faculty Award. She is a neuroscientist with publications in synaptic structure and biochemistry and hormonal effects on brain and behavior. Rochelle is presently studying the Brazilian Portuguese language. Her love of marine biology is reflected in her present endeavor of writing a book of poetry about marine life and science.  She was married to the writer and artist Rex Sexton.


Some of these poems were published in: The Avocet, PoetsWest and Lone Stars.  privacy statement