My mother is a living thing. Breath, nightmares,
a weak right hand, she has flaws like any other
human, doesn't count them because she says no
one wrong thing can define her. I say no, not one
but you have so many. No, I don't say that. I want
to say that. In a sterile room 300 miles from here
several men in white coats smack their palms
together, victorious high fives: a rat's kidney grown
in a petri dish has produced a teaspoon of urine;
suddenly the idea that we can grow whatever we need
(food, paper, organs) is tangible. The tangerine I opened
last night was sweet and full, left a dusting of sticky
rind on my hands, as if I had been touching the sun.
Funny how those orange cells were so tough to slough
off, how easy it was for the young doctor to make
a small slit in my stomach, slip out the brown crescent
of my kidney. How easy for my mother to receive
something that is only partly her. That's how it
works, isn't it? Fifty percent of who I am is her.
The scientists say they can strip an organ of its cells,
leave a frame of collagen, insert new cells to grow.
That's how it works, isn't it? Fifty percent of the new
is old. When she calls me at midnight to ask again
how many times I must go to the bathroom I explain
that we are not the same person: only parts of us
belong one to the other.
Rachel Bunting lives and writes in Southern New Jersey between the Delaware River and the Pine Barrens. Her poems can be found in both print and online journals, including PANK, Toad, Weave Magazine and Tuesday: An Art Journal. Her chapbook Ripe Again was published in 2008 by Finishing LIne Press, and she is currently at work on a full-length manuscript.