A mistake: the 6th-graders
from New Country School scooping up
fistfuls of mutant leopard frogs blame,
at first, themselves: legs broken by the clutch
of careless fingers. Then she spreads her palm,
rays splayed within rays:
the creature between her pink fingers
with the head of a frog, body of a mandala.
Four arms radiate like spokes on a wheel,
two tiny legs branch off one arched thigh.
Ms. Reinitz' class writes letters, spends winter
spreading cells on glass wafers in biology lab,
cataloging litters of bent chromosomes,
examining levels of oxygen, phosphate,
pH balance, nitrate in the murky pondwater.
In the AP photo, the malformed frogs are
arrayed like a clock, or a sun:
this one has two legs; this frog
only one. Here, one leg; four legs;
one leg; one leg with two buds for feet.
I keep the clipping to remind me
it happens to all creatures:
To frogs, to bulging strawberries
that almost twin, to lunk-eyed
blades of grass.
And here, our son's picture on the black paper,
curled up in my belly like a question mark.
His head shines like the moon, his arms
are exclamation points dancing end to end-
a stutter of punctuation.
Then they show us the curved moons
in his legs, his ribs bowed like a cluster of
parentheses crowding his heart.
They kneel at his phosphorous image
and trace his bones.
We barely hear them: "dysplasia ...
imperfecta... camptomelic... lethal..."
The Latin of old prayers.
When they prod the sea of my belly
he flips like a fish on dry land,
as if to say "this isn't for me." A mistake.
We slip his chromosomes from him, untype his blood.
His ghost is agile, whole, unfettered.
No raiment of atoms or twisting mobile
of DNA clatters about him as
he touches fingers to our hair,
our necks, dives under the ventricles
of our hearts. He can go anywhere.
I feel the soft cup his heels push
into my palm, ghost of his wrist,
tender pink shell of ear. There, reflected
in the mirror, his finger is your finger
and his finger is my finger.