Kim Roberts


The structural elements
seen under a microscope
conduct and contract, their attached

extremities tapering to a fine process
doctors call terminal arborization,
comparing cells to trees.

The sensitive cells, the ones that pull away
from light or heat, are called irritable,
and the ones that interlace,

with their reticular cytoplasms,
are sometimes described
as if they were heavenly bodies,

stellate. How could it be otherwise?
To understand is to compare.
Wrapped in delicate sheaths

or bundled in dense parallel,
the cells are elastic.
Under the scope these squamous cells,

these particular cells of mine,
even diseased, even abnormal,
take an odd muscular beauty

that one might describe as polar reaches,
a kind of rolling arctic tundra
here at the edge of the world.

* * *

for Gregg

We sat like children, strapped in our assigned seats. The plane
was descending toward Chicago through clouds. Not the mass of a
single cloud, but stripes of gray and white, shuddering like an old film strip.
I'd been thinking about biopsy, the power in that word, and
trying also not to think of it. I was flying toward you. Suddenly the view
opened on a stark tangle of roads, gray lines on brown, intersecting and
veering off from one another. Mere seconds, and we were enveloped again
in white, full white, a sheet loosed outside the windows, a bright tunnel
we worked hard to push through.

* * *


Everything I see these days
is about Martha. Two acres
of junked cars, some in eternal salute

with their opened hoods.
Brick warehouses with spur lines
like promises dying out.

Sightless windows and rolls
of copper wire. Weeds
nodding in the breeze.

All the relentless exuberance
of plastic: orange mesh fencing,
soda bottles, grocery bags,

long, translucent pearly sheets
that, caught in a sudden underdraft,
raise up like wings.

Needles, syringes, IV tubes.
And their containers,
thin-throated red plastic marked

on all sides: Hazardous.
Reflected heat, old promises,
arteries rusted and blocked.

How can we hold it all—
in a blue sluice of blood at the wrists,
an intaglio lattice of bone?


Kim Roberts is the author of five books, most recently Animal Magnetism winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize (Pearl Editions, 2011) and the anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press, 2010). She has been a writer-in-residence at 14 artist colonies, and i ndividual poems of hers have been translated into Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin. Roberts edits the journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and co-edits the web exhibit DC Writers' Homes