Updated 3 December 2008
Read poems from the first-ever Alzheimer Social Poetry Slam. The Poetry Slam was held at the AD Social at the Society for Neuroscience 2008.
Alcohol Reduces the Risk of AD, So I'll Have a Heineken
Mark P. Burns (Winner)
Let me tell you the reason I stand before you tonight, competing in this poetry jam fight,
On Monday evening in Capitol Hill fair, at a lovely party held in Bill Rebeck's lair.
At eleven p.m. when I was positively drunk, I was suddenly sequestered by an Alzheimer's disease hunk.
Said Dr. Wolozin, to all that would hear, "Please participate in my jam and I'll buy you a beer"!
So here I am, all vulnerable and scared, to rhyme about AD, and I'm shockingly unprepared.
Where does one start, with a history lesson? If so, it all began around 1907.
One hundred years on we know what we see, what a devastating disease this can really be,
The sight of a mind blown all out of sync, unable to comprehend, unable to think,
Joined to those facts our lack of healing, we just need a drug to return human feeling.
Amyloid and tau are the theories of now, we are hoping one of them will soon become a cash cow
Because, God knows, that the going is tough, and assistant professors just don't get paid enough.
Although now and then the research is shoddy, once in a while we discover a new antibody,
With it we try to manipulate the peripheral sink, and we are told that we should follow it with red wine to drink.
We wonder what the effects of statins will be, and what in God's name is happening with ApoE?
But yesterday's breakthrough is given up with a shrug, as we all try to find the next wonder drug.
So now we get to the meat of the matter, and try to decipher the good science from the chatter.
Who do we believe in, a full professor? Or a private businessman, who is a good dresser?
Where presenting in Chicago is like rolling the dice, having terrible effects on Elan's share price.
Immunization was going to be the jewel in the amyloid cascade, but instead encephalitis handed it a grenade.
And what about tau in this equation, how can we stop the phosphorylation?
It turns out that it's quite difficult to do, but never fear my friends, there is always methylene blue!
And so I stand before you tonight, and as I wrap up my poetry jam fight,
I thank you for listening at my attempt to entertain; I hope you did not find it mundane,
And at eleven tonight, when I'm horribly drunk, I still hope to see that Alzheimer's disease hunk.
So I can slowly lean forward and slur in his ear, "Ben Wolozin, where the hell is my beer?"
Augusta D what would you see
If you came to DC with me?
Augusta D what would you think
If you took Hardy, Duff, or Goate for a drink?
You would see what the magicians of DNA have wrought,
Sculpting your genetic image into a mouse to be bought,
And making potions that light plaques in your brain,
Like the "Starry Night" driven by Van Gogh's pain.
Alois Alzheimer what would you say
If the chick you hatched came back to play?
Driving a Ferrari full of tools:
T2 weighting, spectroscopic gating, or laser ablating.
Directed by the generals in command,
Lee, Trojanowski, and Holtzman.
Ramoni Cajal would you sing in rhapsody,
Seeing your dreams flashing in green, red, and blue synapsody?
Knowing that the flowering nerve cells that you mapped
Could now be wrapped, zapped, and trapped.
Augusta, Alois, and Ramoni,
You started our field with simplicity,
Before genes, antibodies, or even electricity.
You paved the road for the minds here tonight,
I salute your legacy that shines so bright.
I salute you and I salute my colleagues:
My heroes of the past,
My comrades of the present,
And my friends of the future.
The Sounds of Dementia
Crrrrkkkklllllll, sssstttttrrrreeeeeetttccccchhhhhh, POP, wwhhhhooooooooo,
What are the sounds of dementia?
Ccccrrrrkkkkklllllll…the sound of an amyloid plaque forming?
The sound of amyloid, a bulging spheroid, all selkoid, tanzoid, or perhaps just void.
Plugging the opera of stunning sounds that make the sparkling arias of our dazzling neurons.
Ssssttttreeeeetttccccchhhhh…. The sound of tangles twisting as dendrites recede.
Tangling our ideas so words come out as mesclun salad…small bits of lettuce all different in shape or color.
Fibers filled with electric potentials…with no potential for thought,
Trying to get past the tangle, begging for passage.
They wait saying, "Let me by, let me be, please,"
Hoping for salvation from the likes of Hutton, Binder, or Davies.
Aaaarrrgghhh or Whooppiieee!!! The sound for a paper or grant whose judgment we see.
The messenger riding in on his brilliant white stallion
Crying out, "Yes! It's a grant that you have won!"
Years of toil punctuated by excitement make a grantsmanship stew, with a bouillon made from work, peppered with the spicing of intuition, vision, and wisdom.
Investigators striving to make an aromatic bisque,
Pursuing the goal of that Nobel obelisk,
The likes of Kandel, Schenk, or perhaps Eberwine,
Scientists who are forever fine.
Pop, pop, pop the sounds of apoptosis
As nerve cells give up their ghost,
Or make their last toast,
Like the thousand flashes during the 4th of July.
A billion nerves signing off to die,
Or perhaps not, saved from that end, too,
By the machinations of Golde, Glabe, or Koo.
Whhhooooo, the last breath, the last moment of life slipping, sliding away,
As that gentle, giggling, loving woman who was my mother
Fades away to the silence of death.
Eighty years with a symphony of energy inside,
Decades of laughing, loving, synthesizing, and realizing
The sparkle that makes us human,
Captured in a trillion noisy connections,
Gradually melting, muting into the silence of our basic elements.
Cccrrrkkkllll, sssttttreeetttcccchhhh, POP, and whhhooooo,
And so it goes when your neurons become too few.
There Once Was an Amyloidosis
There once was an amyloidosis.
Alzheimer's disease, poor prognosis.
God only knows how.
Could it be apoE, Allan Roses?