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  • Beatrice Iker

Poem #16: Phantom Genetics

Updated: May 6, 2022

My grandmother was light-skinned

she came from a pack of godly men and women in

Georgia, but she always held her spine like grandmothers in


My geneticist tells me I need a test

because not only am I dark-skinned

but I am not godly

I am fearsome


hellish, on good days

“Don’t worry about Georgia,” she says

“You are from


I lay back on the table

cold as indecision

and open my mouth

“Don’t worry about Georgia,”

she repeats

My gag reflex


when the nanobots are poured down my throat

“Your tears aren’t real,” I’m told, as fear spills from my eyes

I feel the bots in my chest: sifting, pinching, probing

they fill my lungs

they steal my breath, metal criminals

My tears are real, I think

My geneticist looks at her computer

the data from my lungs makes her frown

I consider murdering her

“You are from Tennessee,” she says, proudly, like I don’t know where I’m from

“But Georgia, and the east of Alabama, they’re holding your cells captive.”

“How do you hold captive that which you co-own?” I wonder, but my tongue has clocked out

it’s tired of the south, but is too southern to say so

“There’s red clay in your lungs; it’s weighing down your body.”

My mother is brown-skinned

neither lost nor found

where does her blood in me stop and Appalachia start

where does her hope in me stop and realism start

The bots climb back up my throat

my gag reflex


I wish I could go along with it

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