Point At Which Parallel Waves Converge & From Which Diverge

Jenny Qi

Researcher, prevention won’t save my life, tweets a patient 
with metastatic cancer. I’m reminded of my mother: 

Why don’t you want to study cancer? when I expressed 
interest in HIV. In the hospital, call from a professor, 

my mother clapping once, then silence; 
the roommate thirty years her senior 

who called my voice lovely, 
who called my mother lucky, 

whom I resented because 
she outlived my mother. 

Nights at a microscope in a room 
where the lights shut off after ten; 

sitting too still, turning a knob just so to focus 
on the right field of cells. The eight hundred mice 

I’ve sacrificed this year; injecting cancer, harsh medicine 
into their soft warm bodies; hating them for biting me 

but understanding; stroking their white fur in apology; 
covering cages with paper so they can’t watch their sisters die.

But I can, and I see my mother in those graying eyes, 
eyes I refused to donate because how would she see; 

and I think how cruelly futile all this 
erratically focused empathy, how brutal 

to learn why I couldn’t save 
what I couldn’t save.

Jenny Qi is a writer, scientist, and science communicator. Her essays have been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Huffington Post, and her poems appear in Rattle, ZYZZYVA, Bellevue Literary Review, Atticus Review, Figure 1, Intima, JuxtaProse, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize by Copper Nickel. www.jqiwriter.com