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Poetry

After Psalm 139

If humans are ninety percent bacteria,
then “I”—a consortium—pray for help
in keeping me all together. My microbiome
is such a swarm of bits and pieces
that statistical analyses can’t prove I am.

Replete with coding errors and mutations,
I am fearfully and wonderfully provisional.
Mitochondria, packing their own genome,
reside in my cells, and a roustabout crew
of microbes fills my gut, cooperating today,

competing tomorrow; making me envious
(an excitable state enabling field shifts
and mixed metaphors) of the Higgs boson
that holds entire universes intact
but is proven to be only after it has come and gone.

So may the proof of my existence be found
in what I leave behind, my decay into other particles,
such as the mass of these words, a high-energy
collision when, in a twinkling, all spare parts
are hemmed in, held fast, and knitted into one.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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