Cellular Soliloquy
by Ken Haas Ken Haas

Ken Haas lives in San Francisco, where he works in healthcare and sponsors a poetry writing program at the UCSF Children's Hospital. His poems have appeared in Alabama Literary Review, Sanskrit, Caesura, The Cape Rock, The Coachella Review, Crack The Spine, Existere, Forge, Freshwater, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Helix, Moon City Review, Natural Bridge, Pennsylvania English, Pisgah Review, Quiddity, Red Wheelbarrow, Rougarou, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cottonwood, Stickman Review, Tattoo Highway, and Wild Violet. His poetry has been anthologized in The Place That Inhabits Us (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010) and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology (2012, 2013).

If we were each just a cell of ourselves,
the choice would be equally epic:

To apoptose (from the Greek; to fall away,
as an autumn leaf)—what biologists
think of as programmed self-surrender,
the penny of life knowing just when to quit,
because its acid sweat, viral heat,
or tattered genes threaten the neighbors;
so a switch flips on in the nuclear kitchen,
the membrane loosens like a collar,
the solitary life leaning over a sink
gives up the will of its boundary,
a fibrous blade opens every pore to air,
bursting the core like a star
whose proteinous scraps are served
on a twirling plate to the newborns
which consume everything in a flood of light
as the body blooms.

Or to go rogue, sever
the almighty switch
with a call to breed without mercy,
take the beach with cohorts
like delirious crabs,
drive veins built of hijacked pulp
deep into the carnal countryside,
hoard food, claim distant outposts,
preach resistance to science,
mutating, metastasizing,
painting ourselves black
with life, life everlasting, life
to coat the tips of the spears,
the wheels of the tanks.

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