Karyotype and Other Poems


I leave my coat on.
Even here, I want to hide it.
She pulls out her sheet of numbered chromosomes,
points to shaded x’s of personhood, begins
to list every disorder
a lab can find in a fetus—the fetus
growing in me like a lump
in the throat. The needled blood
from my arm a soup
of genetic code.

I remember a high school quiz—
matching symptoms to disorder.
Crit du chat: a missing piece on chromosome 5,
high-pitched cry of cat, small head, wide-set
eyes. Most babies still live, but
there are others.
She says.
We only determine risk factors.

There’s no studying for this. I think souls must exist
in wanted things. Dogs go to heaven, not roaches.

She asks how much I want
to know, fingers through the book
of karyotypes. Just trisomy 21, 18, 13?
Or microdeletions, too?
My blood contains the risk
of something missing—a malformation
of the head—

or worse. What makes this body inside me
more than an animal, clawing its way out
to cry, suck, and wake hungry
for the smell of me in the night?

At Thirty-Two Weeks, a Darkening

People on couch
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