The Revenge of Henrietta Lacks by Cecilia Caballero

She owns you
You owe her your life
All your medical advancements
The secrets to an immortal life
Held in her cells that never die

Black women will never die
HeLa cells travel space
Clone themselves
Created the polio and Covid-19 vaccines
Blood-pressure medications and antidepressants
That her daughter swallowed to keep herself alive

She lived in the former slave quarters of her ancestors
She was a tobacco-plantation farmer
She tended the plants, dried the leaves,
Packaged the profit.
And she worked the land
Underneath the 100-year-old oak tree
At the home-house.

She was a 14-year-old mother
She declined medical treatments for
Toothaches, syphilis, injuries, pain.
“Happy home” was noted in her medical file.
She was told she had cancer
And went home and did not
Tell anyone her fear of failure as a mother.

At the public wards for colored women
She was afraid her womb would be taken
She wanted to mother more
But she was treated with radioactive
Radium rods sewn into her cervix
A glow-in-the-dark substance

During her first cancer treatment
Her cells were taken
With the umbilical-cord blood
Of Black babies and mothers
And used to develop the first
Vials of human cell cultures
Made of salt and water and plasma.

And her cancer was mixed with chicken blood
And her cancer was mixed with chicken blood
And her cancer was mixed with chicken blood

Taken with a syringe from the still-beating heart
Of a chicken. They tell us this is science
When she mothers you without her consent.

And they call us witch doctors
And they call us witch doctors
And they call us witch doctors

And we are.

Because her daughter said
Blackness be spreadin all inside you.

Because we know
Blackness is not a cancer
But it cannot be killed.

From: http://sfpoetry.com/sl/edchoice/44.3-3.html

Date: 2021

By: Cecilia Caballero (19??- )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: