The Lives of Cells

            Kurdish teenager, 17,stoned to death in
honor killing by her family near Mosul


            And so
in the cool static rift of a charged particle
we once came, this uniformity of the earth’s life
(ours) explained by a blue lightning bolt of gods
entering some languishing primitive cell,
sparking it into mitosis, and, sexless, the cell
ever dividing into daughter and daughter,
            into stone, into peacock, into angels of light

—all we have
become, or will be—


            and now this girl,
the naked lily-stem of her legs
against her torn black clothes, startling
even here on the evening news,
            her battered face on the television screen
            —what we want to call flower—
the trembling shade beneath our pale, reflected ones,
her shirt red or bloodied
            and the little staccato of stones at her head—


            as if she were about our own daughters,
the wind just now barely channeling through the dark
labyrinths of their young bodies, their simple emptiness wanting what?  
            love  rain  cry of birds   the first touch
of male palm against the budding nipple
            what the living cell evolves for.


            When her father who said  Kill her  Stone her
                        touched her harshly as he must have that first time
            before her leaving for the boy—his hand
that once held her mother, her nipples between his teeth
            gentled the way mine were,  his seed/your seed
            following the old genetic pathways
            the way seed does—

            the torn tissue of its blossoming
even in that cell’s first dividing
            already ordained toward sky
as the blind root splits the holy clay—


did his daughter, tricked home by him,
            missing him I think the way daughters do,
            already know the ending of this story,
know what love can bring, has brought, the way Lot’s wife did—
that one last forbidden look back
            and her feet already crumbling into the shackling salt  --


            In a marketplace somewhere near Mosul
this dénouement: how many men with stones
striking her, striking that dark fragile place,
their birthplace stripped visible now, gossamer of all the fallen women--

            that bald vaginal star of  our newborn daughters
that appears to us each time on this earth like
first memory, like first thought, first desire when the biblical rib
            snapped clean and our wild paradise, ignorant and beautiful,


--Winner of the Chautauqua Literary Journal’s Poetry contest on War and Peace, 2014