Pectoriloquy |

Family Portrait as Fruit Flies FREE TO VIEW

Ting Gou, AB
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Editor’s Note:The author writes, “When I was very young, my grandfather passed away from lung cancer. I am interested in writing poems that explore illness from the perspective of a caretaker or family member. Add that to the fact that I worked in a fruit fly lab for two years during college, and you get this poem. I graduated from Princeton, where I completed theses in the molecular biology and creative writing departments. I’m currently a student at the University of Michigan Medical School.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.

Chest. 2014;146(6):1692. doi:10.1378/chest.14-1493
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I was one of them, too,
mutant Drosophila,
wings poised like shields,
cinnabar eyes dotted
with thin bristles like a forest
of evenly-spaced pines.
Green fluorescent protein construct
tucked away gingerly.
Translucent, quiet, clean.
Waiting for the next generation.
I drop secret eggs. My progeny
crawl through the gene pool.
In another dream, I was
once again a fruit fly,
a grain of rice feeling
my way around the bell
of a raspberry, my skin
in perfect tension.
I became the fruit’s tongue,
my body striking the sides
as I tried to find an opening,
an exit. I circled around
and around the bell,
this ringing instrument,
until I stopped and hung
perpendicular to the ground,
as if resting. How do you
interpret motionlessness?
The body catches on fine hairs
as if catching on fire.
My grandfather, who survived
floods, hurricanes, famine,
a war, didn’t talk much.
When he died, we burned
him to his bones,
skin, hair, cancer
A privacy in this
sudden fluorescence,
as if the body,
letting go of one secret,
can finally keep the others.




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