I Cannot Get Over the Miracle of Cell Division

Two poems by Geetha Iyer

two kittens

I Cannot Get Over the Miracle of Cell Division


 My cats were born soft and small as peaches
 and I tell my mother I cannot get over the miracle
 of cell division. How something minuscule 
 multiplies into muscle mass, coat patterns, a registry 
 of cause and effect, and divergent personalities. 
 Like, how one of my cats has grown smart 
 enough to open doors, chews scenery only 
 when she wants fed, while her sister, restless 
 as a cooped finch, is also too scattered 
 to learn the higher arts of tantrums and escape. 
 I confess to my mother I can hardly understand 
 this hurt of watching, loving them as they grow. 
 My mother gives me a look that makes me stop talking. 
 As if none of the words I’ve learned could describe 
 how it feels to mother two girls. My smart cat 
 comes to me each night to go through the motions 
 of suckling. She kneads into my right bicep, claws out 
 so many beads of blood that the skin scabs over 
 like sandpaper. I’m afraid, now, to tell my mother 
 about this ritual of caregiving. She has yet 
 to lift up her shirt to show me all her scars. 

Meaningful Symbols Placed in Meaningful Places

 I woke up this morning to tell you there may be caves on every continent
 marked with ochre and blood and calcium, that we have never been so alone
 as to be alien in expressions of love. It has never been a mystery why a child 
 would trace her hand upon paper any more than any vertebrate that shivers 
 would turn its face to the sun. Maybe, to be alive today is too much, to choke 
 upon the lies so many people serve in lieu of common dignity. But to be alive 
 has always meant waking up, facing sunward, repeating to those we love the truths 
 that will outlive us. I woke up this morning to tell you Neandertals made art 
 in caves and as-yet undiscovered places. Surely, all our common ancestors 
 made art in leaves, art in hair, in song and other intangibles. I woke up because 
 our lives are holy with such truths as cell division, rock formation, mental 
 maps that leave their traces in uranium-thorium decay. I wake up in such good 
 company, knowing we were never the first and won’t be the last to turn the fact 
 of sunlight into symbol, symbol into body language, movement of bodies against 
 other bodies into such sciences, such memories, into such blinding hopes. 

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