Mal Webb – Helen Lane Lyrics

Well, I propose a toast to the mitosist
With the mostest
She’s a ghost who can boast
From coast to coast in every Hela cell
She’s more cultured than Chanel
Cartier or YSL
But she’s tired of being quite so huge
And dizzy from the centrifuge
She’s quick frozen, colour-fast
Her prison cell is built to last

Dear Helen Lane
Did you know your coffin’s final nail
Is bigger than a blue whale?
And so it will remain
Just as long as cell biologists
Like peering at your private bits

It’s a grand humiliation
Showing now across the nation
Mutation on a huge scale
Bigger than a blue whale

Dear Helen Lane
Did you know the bit you left behind
May help to cure its own kind?
So maybe you can claim
A saintly little perch in every church
For contributions to research

Well back in 1953, m’lady had a malady
A cervix abnormality
That led to her fatality
The cells went for a biopsy

That showed up the malignancy
But also a propensity
To multiply so rapidly
That the scientists went on to see
What other uses there could be
For her expansive quality
They shared her around extensively
To every good laboratory
Her fame was spreading globally
‘Til nowadays she’s said to be
The biggest lonely clone there’ll ever be

Arabidopsis and drosophila
May have advice to offer her
On how it’s best to keep your cool
When you’ve become a research tool

Dear Helen Lane
Did you know your flock of little vultures
Divide and conquer lesser cultures?
But not that you’re to blame
Your name before
They diddled with the facts
Was really Henrietta Lacks

Dear Helen Lane
Did you know that part you left to science
Is now a giant among giants?
And on a higher plane
Your omnipresent question
Bids the answer
God’s a black woman’s cancer

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