Poetry Friday is hosted by Gregory K. at GottaBook
One Thanksgiving, when our eldest daughter Elizabeth was six, she was asked what she wanted to be when she was “all grown up.” I think this relative was asking the question as a lark, something to loop our little girl into the conversation. Elizabeth thought about this carefully (Elizabeth always thinks about everything carefully) and answered, “Well, I think I’m going to be an astronaut ballerina scientist writer.” Everyone at the table smiled and laughed affectionately, and someone else said, “All of them? I think you’re going to have to choose one thing to be. Especially if you want to be really good at it.” Elizabeth, I still remember well, thought about this for a moment, shook her head, and asked, “Why?”
Later on, on our ride back home, she wanted to know why everyone thought her response was so funny…. she was interested in so many things, why should she have to choose one thing to be? We had no answers, but we loved her spirit – and as we’ve watched Elizabeth and her friends grow into accomplished young women, that spirit is something we continue to marvel about all of them. They are all interested in a variety of things, and they pursue each of these with equal amounts of passion and expertise – truly amazing.
So, for this Poetry Friday, in this month celebrating Women’s History, I’d like to share two poems by a remarkably accomplished woman, who also believes that you can “be” more than one thing in life – the poet and molecular biologist, Katherine Larson. I find Larson’s poetry so unusual, and so beautiful… perhaps because she combines the perspective of someone who is trained to notice the science of the smallest things with the ability to write perfectly. Here she is describing that process:
And here are the poems:
The pomegranates are blurs of rouge
in the sky’s tarnished mirror.
The city, bleary with heat. Each day the eyes
of my cat assemble a more precocious gold.
We press our blackened flesh against a sky so bright. I hold
her in my arms at the fading windows.
We gaze together at nothing in particular,
down an avenue that leans so far her tawny eyes
gutter out. In my laboratory, immortal cancer cells
divide and divide. The pomegranates
are almost ripe. Some splintered open the way
all things fragment—into something fundamental.
Either everything’s sublime or nothing is.
and, the second poem:
Love at Thirty-two Degrees
Today I dissected a squid,
the late acacia tossing its pollen
across the black of the lab bench.
In a few months the maples
will be bleeding. That was the thing:
there was no blood
only textures of gills creased like satin,
suction cups as planets in rows. Be careful
not to cut your finger, he says. But I’m thinking
of fingertips on my lover’s neck
last June. Amazing, hearts.
This brachial heart. After class,
I stole one from the formaldehyde
& watched it bloom in my bathroom sink
between cubes of ice.
(you can read the rest here.