But as she watched, the face altered and aged, shifting through the phases of adolescence, early and full maturity, middle age, and thence to shallow old age.
An odyssey, as surely as Ulysses' oceangoing is an odyssey: but not by oars. By the blinks of an eye. * * *
"In 1951, as Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in a Maryland hospital, one astute physician there removed a pea-sized sample of her tumor to see if its cells would grow in a test tube-something never achieved before-and these became the very first human cells to thrive and multiply outside the body. Now called HeLa cells, today there are so many that they outweigh what would have been Henrietta Lacks's living body 400 times, and have been used around the world in studies on polio, leukemia, protein synthesis, the effects of nuclear radiation, genetic control mechanisms, and more."
The sun has set, but the low and swollen belly of the moon won't let its ruddy light completely die out of the sky. So this will serve us as a symbol meaning: we could end, right now, with the life of Henrietta Lacks-and yet we can't, for Henrietta Lacks has no immediate end. In life, "her longest travel had been from her dirt-poor town in rural Virginia, into Baltimore." In after-life, "her cells were carried aboard the earliest space flights, for experiments on zero-gees and cosmic ray bombardment." Low and swollen moon-she's been there. Moon of the gnashing wolf, moon of the overtumulting tidewaters, moon of the itch of love, of the gnash of love, of the waters of love -we've all been there.
Upstairs, my wife is sleeping; dreaming-what? How far is the tether unraveled? If life is a stem, by definition its flowering grows outside of the stem. How short, how everyday is the step between two worlds?-the thickness of the skull? of the skin? My wife's friend Jane's young son announced, in case we didn't know it, "Men-have-penises. Women-have-vagendas." That's a good one, yes? And I've been pleased to have been issued passports into some of those "vagendas"-to have traveled there. And always, at that journey's end, I've been left breathless, changed for a moment and lost in myself and breathless, and beached on a foreign shore. * * * deer hoofprints, leading up to the river: there, of course, they disappear
as we do, into the currents of sleep, of REM, or dream: eight hours
and then continue on, as clear as ever on the farther side
Excerpted from Budget Travel through Space and Time by Albert Goldbarth Copyright © 2005 by Albert Goldbarth. Excerpted by permission.
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