two poems

by Caitlin Powell

epigenetic inheritance

It has been shown that exposure to traumatic events can change an individual’s
one minute / slip trust into a pocket where it doesn’t belong / follow a man into the

genetic makeup. In some cases, this change can present as abnormal methylation
grime of a bathroom and feel a stirring in the dark of your cells / one hour / sleep on

of genes involved in the regulation of stress hormones, and can be passed
the street like the sleep is your own / reach for the self you left in the stall and find it

from parent to child. From mother to daughter. However, no research
wearing your skin like a dress, shoulder exposed and the buttons undone / one day /

has yet ascertained how long it takes after traumatic exposure for genetic changes
walk into the sunlight with your leggings rolled up / cling to a form that tells you you’re

to occur. The purpose of this study, then, is to land on the back of its subjects’
clean and wipe the vaseline off / one week / drive to a target and buy a kit that maps

necks, a fly that they just can’t swat; to be a needle that slips between the bones
you out like a country / give yourself the gift of your ancestry and the illusion that you

of the spine and takes a sample with each quick breath. We will wait in the corner
can’t be changed / one generation / describe the babies you don’t want to have, the

of a dark bar bathroom, in a hospital humid with bruising; we will learn
proposal you won’t accept if it comes / wonder if this is where the past lives or dies —

to identify the moment of birth, the nascence
a morning alive with unbearable heat, a womb that goes empty or full

of a scream in the night.

 

Elimination Game

Rules of play:

      • Buy a teacup in Paris when you’re nineteen. Find one made of fine bone china, delicate and fragile and blue. Carry it home in bubble wrap. Nestle it at the center of your duffle bag like a ceramic, unbeating heart.

     

      • After many years, put the teacup on an antique dresser that’s already been stained by a fish tank. Do this daily. Stop only when you notice the appearance of damage.

     

      • To say with certainty where a water ring comes from, you must always create a second one. You must put the cup on another dry surface and wait. This will tell you as much as looking inside the cup would tell you, as seeing a silvery crack along its wall.

     

      • You are allowed to mourn the teacup, that you carried across an ocean with you. Be sad that it is broken, because a broken teacup is no longer useful. Be sad that you have broken it, because your lips have always been gentle, and you have always taken such small gulps of the world. Wonder, daily, how you drank from a cup that was broken and never noticed the moment it broke.

     

      • Is a command in past or present tense? You’re in Paris and you’re nineteen, you buy a teacup on a Sunday at the only open shop and you pour your bitterness into it. You carry that cup across the lines on a map, you watch the borders of the nations beneath you curve and splinter like a crack in fine bone china. If you put your wounds in a teacup, the walls must remain intact, because the fish tank broke in the seventies but the dresser’s still dark with water. You must consider what will happen when the teacup breaks. You must glue it together, or throw it away.

     

    Cait Powell is a queer writer and software engineer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Computer Science from Mills College, a BA in English from Scripps College, and her recent work has appeared in Pretty Owl Poetry, Epigraph Magazine, Gone Lawn, and Menacing Hedge, among others.

    Artwork by: Christian Fregnan