A Poetry Syllabus
{An Umbrella Special Feature}


Robin Chapman’s

most recent book, Abundance, won the 2007 Cider Press Book Editors’ Award.

Her poems have appeared recently in 5 AM, Appalachia, and The Iowa Review.


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What Binds the Slime Mold Cells

i.

The six legs of the fruitfly unfold
      from genes that made my own
            torso, fingers, toesone ancestry.

The hunger that moves the foraging
      single cells of slime mold
            toward each other

to become one body rising out of soil,
      slug that travels, roots, fruits, dies,
            its spores an end to immortality

what binds the slime mold cells binds me.


ii.

My ears that hear the seagull’s cry,
      the wash of waves, footsteps in the grass,
            miss the long low rumble of elephant calls,

the high insect-seeking chirp of bats
      echos making object of the world we find
            through eye. Something enters and changes us,

and we find the world
      through which it comes as variously
            as our need and history dictate,

each shaped by each.


iii.

At Churchill College dinner—long white table cloth,  
      three wines—my seatmate tells me he’s worked out
            that it might have happened all at once.

A handful of molecules, water and rock,
      and all’s begun—the strands that replicate
themselves, their mirror opposites,

the host of protein products—once,
      in a lucky time and place, and lifeour life—
            came tumbling forth, accumulating

improbabilities.


iv.

And that improbable common capsule
      the slime mold slug becomes,
            rooted on a slender stalk,

ripened spores cast out
      for another chance at lifewe too
            in our common skin of atmosphere

move toward each other,
      invent the intricate moves
            that could make one body, delicate balance

of part for whole.


v.

Each inner world reports the outer one
      in shifting play of chemistry
            what draws us forward in delight or need

geese following and trading leads
      down the magnetic flare of sky,
            elephant caressing her mother’s skull,

what rises in the apple tree,
      the fruitfly feeding on the apple,
            the fruitfly's memory of the tree

what works in them, at work in me.