|Ms Popa is a Romanian-American poet|
Romanian-American poet Maya Catherine Popa (pictured above) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, in 2011. She went on to pursue an MFA from NYU, where she worked with veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan under a Veterans fellowship, and an MSt from Oxford University under a Clarendon Scholarship. She is the 2014 winner of the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize and the 2013 winner of the Oxford Poetry Society Martin Starkie Prize. Her poems and criticism appear in The Kenyon Review, Poetry London, Oxford Poetry, FIELD, Carcanet Blog, Colorado Review, Southword, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is currently an editorial fellow at Poets & Writers and the literary editor of All Hollow Magazine.
Knockout Mouse Model
A knockout mouse is a genetically engineered mouse in which researchers have inactivated, or "knocked out," an existing gene.
Its body & blood are teaching tools: islands of the genome’s archipelago disabled, the conditioned chaos observed. Most won’t grow past the embryo, designed for dissection, microscope eyes. A scientist spends his lunch hour contemplating the concealed sides of its origami heart.
How to say that suffering should yield something? How to say trespass, hope, progress stowed in the lax body, in one utterance?
Terror is imagining the human body intruded upon in this way, its furniture rearranged & forced to breed children. Someone coming in the night with helix scissors, clipping your eye color, turning off your hearing, switching out your liver for a third kidney, all of it happening slowly, like an old movie reel.
I feel my cells retreat into my fingers ready to defend their information.
In a gentler, cartoonier universe, the mice would be anthropomorphically attractive: knockouts, mice who model. They’d drink on the house wherever they went, twirling their tails flirtatiously.
Tonight, the unstudied, parasitic mice are having the night of their lives, scaring couples on stoops, freeloading meals from granite floors. Deli cats hear them pacing behind walls. The excitement of their tiny footsteps is excruciating.
An off duty scientist is breeding something for fun, to see what happens if—what happens? Nature’s mice are breaking & entering, slipping under doors with all they need to survive.
This poem won the Oxford Parallel Universe Prize; it appears here with permission of the author.