Today, a walk in the sunshine. Squash. Rick and Grandpa Arthur took Ronan to the museum, and I picked up my medical records with all of my prenatal testing results. A thick stack of blurry ultrasounds, acronyms, numerals and decimal points. Illegible doctor’s notes. Turns out I did have the Tay-Sachs blood test (Rick and I could not remember.) The results? NO MUTATION DETECTED. Pre-natal screens test only for the nine common mutations of the gene, but there are hundreds. The gene, in other words, is everywhere. Why in this person or that person? Why in one and not the other? My mutation might be brand new, or hard to find — elusive, slippery, and all this time it’s been lurking. Here, in Ronan, the great unveiling of what, if odds (75%!) had been in our favor, I might have never known. I had to pull the car over on Calle Navidad (and for a brief, surreal moment, thought about the biography of Jesus I’ve been reading, and the different sources for the divergent infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew), feeling both relieved and enraged. I wanted to know everything. I know so much now, but the story is just beginning.
At least we don’t have to stay in that genetic counseling room at Cedars-Sinai, wondering if we made the wrong choice. (Relief.) Many of my friends didn’t even bother with prenatal testing — they simply trusted in the odds. Never having been one to believe in odds or statistics (my own congenital birth defect is so very, very rare), I did everything to cover all the bases, get the results, to know. A genetic “test” now seems to me about as foolproof as a weather prediction. (Rage.)
Today, a poet who was probably not thinking about genetics, but she was absolutely thinking about survival, and she was certainly interested in the paper thin concept of luck and what if and how do you know and what might have happened and coulda shoulda woulda. I read it as a hard-edged take on the idea of being blessed, and survival of the fittest, and the odds are slim, and other things people believe in or say or misinterpret; phrases we live by, mistake, and perhaps (who knows?) grow to understand.
It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Father off.
It happened, but not to you.
You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.
You were in luck – there was a forest.
You were in luck — there were no trees.
You were in luck — a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a jamb, a turn, a quarter inch, an instant.
You were in luck — just then a straw went floating by.
As a result, because, although, despite.
What would have happened if a hand, a foot,
within an inch, a hairsbreadth from
an unfortunate coincidence.
So you’re here? Still dizzy from another dodge,
close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn’t be more shocked or speechless.
how your heart pounds inside me.