Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Thinking about Museums

I have excavated this from one of my old journals:

Feb 2007:

Today I spotted a National Portrait Gallery painting of Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin aged 75.  This Nobel prize winner for chemistry and ex University of Bristol big wig was pictured furiously, nay, many handedly writing important stuff on scraps of paper while surrounded by brightly assorted gob-stoppers stuck on a miniature roller coaster of stickle brick type proportions. This chemical Meccano type construction was placed untidily before her on what looked like a kitchen table and I thought now that’s a lady I need to question more deeply:

Questions to D.M. Crowfoot-Hodgkin (1910-1994)

Where did you get your drive and your single-minded abandon
your freedom from fashion, your joy for refraction,
your brilliant electrical brain?
And how did keep your spark alive,
did you delve the B12 and magnify the question
did you ruminate while rheumatoid ruined circulation
and how on earth did you understand simultaneous equations
and the balls and sticks and mathematics of your chemical creations?

Did your emerald gown graze the floor when you got Nobelled in ’64
did you dance and laugh and belch and glide,
on the music and the bubbly and the sheer self pride
and between ‘71 and ’88, Ms Dorothy Chancellor Crowfoot. H
did your passion overflow in the science class
were your lectures loved to bits, did your students pass
or as a Bristol University figure head
did you bury yourself in research instead?

But back to that oil at 75, it says:
you really lived while being alive,
says despite, hair sight short white knuckle-twist and bend,
you groped and gripped and grappled truth until your very end.

(This poem was written in response to Maggi Hambling’s oil on canvass, 1985, which was part of the ‘Work Rest and Play exhibition’ at Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery, Jan-April 2007)

Be still and know

I read a call to


‘Be still and know that I am God’

and my questions become more than just the One

how for example can I know and still release

my ever unravelling thinking fluff

my cling to this life long enough

to untether and completely trust

like Hildegard de Bingen’s feather

like some non-specific spec of dust

that this heavy clod of earths unease

will float upon the breath of God

by knowing stillness if you please


Why for instance would I welcome in the dark again

deeply ingest todays Ton-Glen of tension

blood-shed death and grief

if still breathing out I barely taste

Your luminous love above this stench

of mindless city living waste


But really


what if it could really be this easy

if i could seamlessly become We

if You could find Yourself in me

and what if all that’s needed for this embrace

is to clear some clutter

to lose my head

and create a heart shaped whole instead

to find You already found

in that place You dwell

within my ground?