Cells

A new poem by Fiona Benson.

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These are the chimera –
foetal cells
that migrate across the placenta
and bed down
even in the mother’s brain.

Straight-off I thought of that robot car
driven by a web of neurons
extracted from a rat
and grown on silicone,
electrode-primed.

The rat-brain drove the car
and the car spun its wheels
and went mad –
shunting into corners,
cowering under the scientist’s chair –

behaving like a rat
that found itself exposed
and sought concealment.
It knew it was out in the open.
It did not know it was dead.

As for my daughters’ cells
left stashed in my body
like stowaways or spies,
I think they pilot me
into agonies of protection –

it’s not my own mortality
I flail at now, but theirs.
Look how obsolete I am in person,
how fitfully I steer,
how I’m wheeled and governed.

Fiona Benson’s first collection, Bright Travellers (Jonathan Cape), won the Seamus Heaney Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Prize.

This article first appeared in the 15 June 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Who sunk Brexit?