Short curve

by Marlena Chertock

I Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia

It’s strange how it comes down to C, A, G, and T,
the confusing string of letters that make us up.

CAGT, like a cage. She can’t escape the letters in nuclei,
zipped deep in her, a genetic straitjacket.

Her dad’s hip is stubborn,
frozen like a window stuck shut in winter.

Soon she’ll become that,
their collagen written wrong.

She wants to understand,
their genes broken on the same line.

II Growth chart

Poppop picked up a pencil and carefully drew a faint mark
over her head on the basement door.
The tradition started before she was born.
He traced his son’s and daughter’s height for years,
their initials on the doorframe
in a race to see who would reach dad first.

She understood inch by inch engraved in the wood,
not by being plotted on the doctor’s growth chart,
a chart tracking trees, and she was a seed.
Other girls her age were far above
on the thick line of the normal curve.
Her lonely dot was making its slow progression on a curve of its own.

This poem was published in the Little Patuxent Review’s 2014 Science Issue.
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