At thirteen, I killed my first
mouse. My father taught me to feel
for the thin vertebrae
below the skull, to push
forward, tug back the tail, and twist
-snap my fingers. Too quick
for pain, only a small gasp
of air. My father taught me
that this mouse, this death, is a step
in the cure for cancer, its genome
carefully tweaked to harbor
markers of clinical consequence.
And so we paid our respects—
cryopreserved its cells, evaluated
its protein levels, encased its organs
in clear paraffin. My father taught me
its sacrifice demanded our sacrifice,
that cancer never slept
forever. My father did not sleep
except to dream of assays and analysis,
his hands only paused
after the aspiration of each pipette.
My father taught me how each motion
must be measured by microns—
antibodies released, antigens finding
and found. My father, pausing
his hand over my shoulder,
his palm wide and cool,
as I reached
for my first mouse.


THE LESSON by Tingyu Liu



Photo used under CC