Selections from “The Zygote Epistles”

Zygote, you are my favorite not-quite-person
to talk to, though at times I’d rather swoon
            through quill mums, rangy smoke alarms, or quiet’s
            naked palms. Is language anguish-gauge or laughing gas?
                        Correct answer: yes. I’m not gonna shit you. The queerness
                        of personhood’s something to not quite get used to––pits
            to mark ears; eyes, dark blots. Heart’s intellect. Perhaps like you,
            I tell myself that everything about the world is movie,
and everything that moves within is world. Still, to honor
your sand-silt kinship, I’m starting to pat the earth down
            with both forearms just for some new perspective. Dust nit.
            Poppy seed. Iris mite. Jot off life’s manicure stick:
                        You are one glad-ass act of insurrection. Of joy’s terrorism.
                        The lilac vestige of linking’s musicianship.

What kind of being is Zygote larger than? So glad you asked:
                                    Those dried brine shrimp, that group of crustaceans
which go into sleep-states just to be sold
                                                in hatch-kits as fishbowl pets. AKA: sea monkeys.
Supposed to be able to fight, play baseball and rise
                                    from the dead, though you hardly can see them—
even with X-Ray specs. Zygote, in our age thinking is seen
                                                as a lump of cold lotion, mostly a thing
too mutant-dreamy to do. Do you bereave me? Would you
                                    agree to the use of cookies? Don’t you just hate
when the no-good knuckles over the truth? Give me
                                                your nevermore hand: Let us become oblong
sans-nation transitionals, like those lobe-finned fishibians
                                    in the Canadian Arctic, which evolved to all fours
while living in waters next to the Nansen Sound—upon which hoof-smack’s
                        music moves us nonstop: the Peary Caribou. The jutty

Zygote, sometimes you want to just take the tone of the world
            down, scrape the pomp off the circumstance, stop
                        the marketplace-micrometeorites’ fall
across all the black and blue trees. Life Speck, that’s why
            I live here, in mind’s lining. The me there is you-sized. The you there,
                        wearing my niece’s body, is spec life—a good enough
state of anxiety to throw down a party. Today is the Feast Day
            of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, patron of the poor. Mother
                        of the underseen: First ever Canadian declared to be a saint.
We’re closest to those we’re trained not to see:
            the working dimeless. Denizens of charnel ground. Marine algae.
                        The filmy stout infant fish. Dust nests smaller even than this:
            I spy your one little eye almost leaving… I see things
because I’m unpaid to. Because I’m a teacher at Who University.

Spec kid barely post-blastocyst: Okay. I’m not gonna fib.
                                                Life’s going to try and turn
you into its bitch, biological sex notwithstanding.
                                                And while we’re at it, every mother
always already serves as the head
                                                of a nation. As for this particular planet:
it’s one round-backed guitar
                                                you frisk to tension-test for metaphor.
That’s it. Power enacts us into being.
                                                To persist in our persons means
we give over to terms never wholly
                                                our own… This gets me feeling spasmodic.
Makes me want to peck at five species.
                                                Each day’s a flown bunting. A knife-line.
A breakage: the self on the one hand,
                                                a cellphone, the other.

These poems are from the manuscript I’m currently working on—from a section titled “The Zygote Epistles.” These epistles, addressed to incipient life (alternatively referred to as “Zygote” and “Life Speck”), meditate on the potentially human self as well as overall personhood-—rapidly being altered by techniques of power—while fixing what we think to be human within other nexus of animal and earthbound “transitionals.”

About the Author

Diane Raptosh‘s fourth book of poetry, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press) was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award and was a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. The recipient of three fellowships in literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she served as the Boise Poet Laureate (2013) as well as the Idaho Writer-in-Residence (2013-2016), the highest literary honor in the state. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in the U.S. and Canada. A highly active ambassador for poetry, she has given poetry workshops everywhere from riverbanks to maximum security prisons. She teaches creative writing and runs the program in Criminal Justice/Prison Studies at The College of Idaho. Her most recent collection of poems, Human Directional, was released by Etruscan Press in fall 2016. Her website: Here is a link to her recent TED Talk, titled “Poetry, Democracy, and the Hope of Sounds.”


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