by Leslie J. Anderson
When did you start speaking to the rats?
Not the ones you keep as pets and feed watermelons
And giggle as they climb in and out of its rind
Like a green and pink airstream camper.
No. The ones at the lab. Rats #2 through #36
That you inject with cocaine and ecstasy
And place in a white box to test treatments
For post traumatic stress disorder
and you make a check as a shock
travels through their system and you whisper I’m sorry.
You are doing good and important work. This will make a difference,
but this will still bother you tomorrow, even if you confess
to your rats, and pray every day.
One day my friend came home from Iraq.
He was so glad to see me, to be home
and when he lit cigarettes his hands shook
and he jumped when a car started
and I was secretly afraid of him.
One day you will move to a new lab where you will grow cell cultures
Where the moral questions can be brushed with bleach if necessary,
and everything is clean and the data is neat.
But remember, remember
Wild Type Mutation
I get stuck on the memory
of my roommate laughing at me when I told her
I was thankful my cleft wasn’t that noticeable.
She asked me, how could anyone miss it?
Was that all anyone saw – or saw first?
That little cut on my lip, the line across my jaw
where the muscle didn’t form completely –
where it mutated. Like an x-man. It’s the same
time of mitochondrial mutation. Wile Type.
My parents were new parents, afraid they had broken me.
There is beauty in the insecurity of potential.
The teardrop of extra skin on a lip. It could have been
Super strength, Butterfly wings, Lazer hearing.
It could have made me special.