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AR #57 Cover
number 57

by Gregory Byrd

Ras Gene

Twisted like an orange's navel, but infertile as a crystal,
doctors always compare tumors to citrus—large as a grapefruit,
the size of an orange, big as a lemon rooted under the skin,
like the stories we told out on Mohawk Street when we ate key limes
off the tree where the huge blacksnake would sun herself
on warm mornings.

Their pictures develop into Clyde Butcher photographs
a negative black and white shadow on the lung,
darkness gracing the liver, a spot of leaf on a river of colon,
or like a Catholic icon, a mass hiding under the trachea
which sings Ave Maria. Red clover, Red Date, Red Elm,
red the flush of her face.

They watch their mothers and fathers die, and recite these odd poems,
images rendered by physicians who spent years learning the human
heart, the impulses that make it go, the four chambers that move blood,
the blood that moves oxygen, the oxygen that spurs cells to divide
in orderly blooms until they twist or shift, God's instructions
translated wrong.

The doctors put down scalpels. External beams of starlight
converge at something that looks like cauliflower. Palladium
seeds can cure the prostate like a healing plant, like rattlesnake root
the shamans used to make people whole again. In a dream, they feed
it in a gruel to the mother on a woven mandala while they chant sacred words,
naming the body like this weed, like that fruit.

*red clover and rattlesnake root are medicinal herbs that are being studied for their cancer-treating properties. Red date, red elm are also medicinal herbs.
*ras gene is a gene that can cause cancer when it is mutated.

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