Inspired in part by the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and in part by Sarah Kay's TED speech, I've written a poem:
an era when human experimentation
was a regular occurrence, without
their knowledge or consent.
an era when doctors so focused
on helping humanity that, often,
individual patients didn't matter.
and a woman was lost.
but the story is really that
her children never knew
- such things weren't discussed.
in a family that slept, ate, grew, bathed, learned,
loved, laughed, cried in numbers in spaces
smaller than this,
no one talked about sickness
no one tole the children they had
a sister who had been institutionalized
no one told them a thing about
their mother - she was gone
Years later, as society realized she mattered,
the family pieced the story
And I think about my own family. My
mother and her generation were raised
much the same.
- you don't talk about this
My mother's mother died when Mom
was a young teen.
I was in college when I learned
it was cervical cancer.
When I first heard stories of
How she got so sick, young Mom
had to drive her to chemo.
And we still have work to do.
I do not know enough.
I do not know what kind of
person she was.
But Mom sees in our lives the value of
And soon we will sit down and share.
And my grandmother - who I've
never know as grandmother -
will become a living, breathing
story in my collection.
That defines me.