There are mechanisms, one learns,
for the tiniest flaws.
At the most essential of levels
the spiral staircase so infinitely identical
and minutely disparate
is, it turns out, quite human.
One hundred thousand and thousand thousand
breaks and strains
and loose ends and
frayed connections, every day.
One empathizes with the least relatable of molecules
—wanting to buy coffee, offer a sad smile.
How do the atoms face such chaos?
How do the Adams?
The daily bombardments
of toxins and tumors,
of pestilence and plutonium,
of burning sun and
knocking ion and idealist alike out of orbit.
When the sulfur bridge falls
and bonds reach into the void in vain,
what do they meet in the darkness?
the cataclysmic end of wayward immunity,
the tearing up and starting over of an ill-timed division,
a snip here, a switch there,
a gentle push towards correction
The hardy imperfects, targeted for scrutiny,
imprinted for self-criticism,
in surviving are allowed to survive.
Encouraged, even. Embraced.
The code nudges the misfit,
guiding the twisted and bent past the revolving gauntlet
to be made whole.
Meanwhile one wears sunscreen,
shields the heart,
A cosmos shamed by the generosity of the merest motes
struggles toward the warmth of a million
billion tiny acts of acceptance.
Forgiveness is inherent in the Architecture.
Ms Friedman's poem won the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Award for 2010.—ED.