Catherine McGuire


Linear and Helix

(for Alice E. Kober & Rosalind E. Franklin)

Nights at your desks –
sorting, resorting, sifting for clues –
alone, barely noticed, coming closer
to an incredible prize,
you poured pure will
into a tool to break
your chosen codes:
the clay shards lined with glyphs and sigils,
or adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine in tantalizing curves.

You must have watched the patterns
of scorn – male after male –
the inbred contempt, rarely disguised.
What drove you? What sustained?
Did you ever put the pen down,
stare at a wall, picture a life
bubbly, surrounded – “normal”?
Then – somehow – pick the pen up

Perhaps it’s madness, this need to unravel
what Life has woven – to dissect,
to lay out the parts like clockwork sprung.
Do we ever ask what we’re looking for?
Under it all, what we think we’ll get to?
When you pulled mystery apart,
laid it out, was it meaning
or recognition you sought?

Now textbooks gloss Linear B, double helix –
classic springboards to other codes.
You’ve both passed on.
After years of no credit,
the men crowing their fame
to a credulous public, your supporters mute,
hesitant – or ignored,
in the end, you’re rescued from un-history.
But what is hailed was pitied,
odd woman out.
Will we ever get to bypass that
long, lonely road?


catherine-mcguire-cathy1kloCatherine McGuire has 3 decades of poetry in publications such as New Verse News, FutureCycle, Portland Lights, Fireweed, and on a bus for Poetry In Motion. She has four chapbooks: Palimpsests (Uttered Chaos) and three self-published (, a full-length book of poetry, Elegy for the 21st Century (FutureCycle Press) and upcoming a de-industrial science fiction novel Lifeline (Founders House Publishing) in 2017. Her website is

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