A single-celled organism has learned to distill toxins
to a slow drip of the one it needs,
as how the wolf boy learned to live without human love
or language, how the widow lives in loss,
cannot throw away the hair in the brush, keeps it
in a small lacquered box, how in a house of silence
I learned to listen, how in winter the homeless guy
who lives on the bank’s bench collects papers to peruse
then wear against the cold, how in the factory clamor
a friend learned to sing, but only in the key of the conveyor’s
squeak, how sometimes we take the poison
for the good of the whole organism.
It takes our hair, loosens our teeth,
our insides appear sudden at our feet.
But we go on, as it renegotiates
certain cellular contracts,
using chemistry’s desertions
for life’s demands.
How every single cell of us
can learn to live with lack.