Sunday, January 2, 2011


There are legends written along the concave curve
of a newborn’s cradled ribs.
They are prophecies.
like this one:
I will love my son so much
I won’t be able to let him go.
I will carry his cellular traces in my streams
as his shadows sewn to my limbs become
constant companions long after his birth.

Years ago
I read
doctors discovered mothers
can carry the genetic material of their children
for a lifetime after birth.
They call this a chimerism.

Definition chimera:
A mythical, fire-breathing monster, commonly drawn
with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.

This is my future.
Picture me a Frankenstein of genetic tissue.
I become a fire-breathing monster
a pieced together patchwork of biology
so thankful
I might still have him with me
even if he is on the other side of the world.

So maybe this doesn’t matter when doctors ask,
why do women, more often than men, develop autoimmune diseases?

In fetal microchimerism
they think
they found an answer.
Children’s cells left behind in mother’s blood
might be mistaken for genetic guerrillas  
so her body turns on itself.
Immune defenses destroying indiscriminate
and ruthless
I glimpse a possible future.

When my son is born
I will not see where I end and he begins.
The slow severing of this umbilicus will be excruciating
a premeditated amputation that must come I know
I will still reach to hold his hand when he is not there…
the reminiscent shadow of a lost limb.

When he wants to go
for the first time, to a friend’s house
without me.
I will let him
imagining every worst case scenario.
Scenes filled
with matches, lighter fluid, aerosol cans,
swimming pools, and second story balconies.
When he comes home
I will be hiding relief in my back pockets.

When he falls in love
I will not ask him to stop
even if I see heartbreak following.
But every time he hurts
I will find my own body embattled with his aching.
I will wear wounds
as deliberate decorative laced scars.
Here is a monster in the making.

But doctors offer another possibility for the chimera.
These left behind strayed cells
inside a mother might become warriors.
Her children’s DNA remnant ribbons running
through capillaries to veins
might fight to repair her damaged body.
This is a son making good at the molecular level.

This is my foretelling.

I will love him so much
I will be afraid to take pictures
celluloid stealing moments too precious for permanence.
He will be beautiful with small things.

Like breathing when he’s sleeping.
The only time in 24 hours he’s quiet.

Like running beside my car.
“I am happy to see you” drummed out in every full throttle footprint.

Like wearing chocolate as war paint.

Like patting my hand gentle
When I can’t talk, because life
has gotten bottled and stoppered
at the back of my throat.
I can’t breathe.
And my son will whisper,
“Mommy, it’ll be okay.”

These moments will be butterfly dust
caught in whorls of fingerprints dissolved to
universal matter blown away with a breath.
I will barely notice as they leave me just
a bit lighter
running him banner streaming
through chains and ladders and spirals in
links and pairs and unraveling predictions.