This week’s poem is called Chimera. You probably know that a chimera is a fire-breathing beast in Greek myth. It has a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. We don’t see many of those running around, but science today is mixing parts of other species. I wrote this poem after reading a news story on the subject. My imagination just wouldn’t let it go. The poem appeared previously in North American Review.
This morning early, I followed
the rural roads deep into Nevada,
rolling and curving through the tiny towns
until I found the place I’d read about
where some sheep have human livers,
others human blood, and just one,
a human heart. It was in your newspaper, too,
I bet, not some H.G. Wells nightmare,
filled with beasts that groan and speak,
but a lab farm, scoured and neat,
shining with aluminum and chemicals,
a place where a liver grown
inside a sheep is not a horror, but a hope
for folks who need one. At first
it was a disappointment. In the lab and
in the field, sheep crowded together,
baaing–looking, acting just like sheep–
nothing distinguishing about them.
But then the one with the human heart
followed the scientist who’d made him
with his eyes, watched the tracks
her small feet made across
the lab’s damp floor. He stood stock still
in the stall when she touched him
with her cold instruments, then nuzzled
her soft hands. Even I could feel it.
It’s something we all know–
how the heart keeps wanting, wanting
the unnameable, the impossible, yearning in the dark,
like a sheep at night in a cold barn.