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The Hybrid Embryo Debate               Displacement

         Gossip                           Chemistry


The Hybrid Embryo Debate


      ‘…not even my greatest enemies would say that I was 30% a daffodil…’

      Edward Leigh, MP


The mechanics, let alone the science, are troublesome  

bits of double helix, micrographic blobs called stem cells,

quotes from pluripotent party leaders, and, shuddering close

on great white wings, the dread of something not quite human


like the story of a god just playing swan. It all comes down to sex,

airbrushed into religion, politics. She grasps, in painted nakedness

his curved, tumescent neck, while lyrics struggle with his beak,

her thighs.  It’s all a blurred arousal of grunts and feathers


pillowfighting the headlines, making even presidents

slip up. But every one of us knows best  how many eggs,

and whose, and when a cell becomes a soul, and whether science

is an ugly duck, a swan, or just a playing god.


Eventually the papers seek out other monstrous flesh

to scream about, and labourers in labs and studios just carry on

asking what if and how. Our leaders, awkward on dry land, take on

whatever form the job requires, convinced that all they do


will hatch out into stars, immortalise  but we know

that could just be the same old myth as well.



Emily Wills

published in The Rialto, 66, Spring 2009, ISSN 0268-5981






All her life she’s been on the cusp

of leaving, given half an hour or less

to gather the scattered vertebrae

of her whiplashed spine, the stuck valves

of her ragged heart, move on.


Surviving, she’s unsound talk,

the wrong side of someone else’s war,

is forced to go, without coat or comb,

only her girls with just the words

they stand up in, hanging on.


Each time she’s moved on something else

is lost: a brooch, a tooth, her first name.

Some things replace themselves:

unspeaking neighbours, namecalling,

children pulled away.


She’s fallout from unlearned history

blown with entropic winds to end up here,

at ninety, cramped in one room, another century,

another place, whose road signs cheerfully proclaim

its twinning with some German town.


Her tongue betrays her every time

her door is forced: then, by some young soldier

just obeying orders; now, by those fragments

of her shrinking generation. Among shells of old men

gunned down by her accent, widows

still nailing their grief on her hands,

she sits with her coat on, ready to leave.



Emily Wills

in collection, Developing the Negative, 2008,

The Rialto, ISBN 978-0-9551273-3-5;

first published in Magma 36, 2006, ISSN 1352-9269







My daughter's best schoolfriend

told my daughter's best homefriend

that she, my daughter, didn't like her,

the homefriend, at all really

and was only pretending.


My daughter's best homefriend

told her mother, who is also my friend

actually, what the best schoolfriend

had said, and my friend thought it best


not to tell me, as it was sort-of confidential.

Meanwhile, the best schoolfriend

told my daughter that the best homefriend

had told her, the best schoolfriend,

that she didn't like her, my daughter,

at all really, and was only pretending.


When my daughter told me, I didn't know

who was best at pretending, or if or whom

to tell, but after a sleepless night I told

my friend who knows the homefriend's mother

a bit and she said it was all very confusing.


I remember how my best schoolfriend

wasn't really a friend let alone best, and I was

only pretending because of her terrifying sisters

and golden princess hair, and how I never told my mother.


And now the best homefriend's mother is my friend

and so is the confused friend who knows her a bit

and I do not think they are pretending. So I suppose

we've all grow up at last, shedding golden hair

through sleepless nights, with all our best and only

mothers still untold.



Emily Wills

in collection, Developing the Negative, 2008,

The Rialto, ISBN 978-0-9551273-3-5;

first published in The Rialto, 56, 2004, ISSN 0268-5981







It’s the way soft marge

pales to a cream when matched

with crystal mass of sugar


how eggs split, resolute on the edge

then jellied, their slowed-down viscous drop

with bits of shell resisting spoon or finger


and how, with flour, the mixture falls

with just that slight reluctance, every time:

when all she’s added is air


and neediness, which will expand, of course

and rise, hungering through the house, its smell

mouthing, dragging us home.



Emily Wills

in collection, Developing the Negative, 2008,

The Rialto, ISBN 978-0-9551273-3-5;

first published in Smiths Knoll 36, 2005, ISSN 0964 6310


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