for Elisa

When you sang the Mother Goose Rhymes
on what little girls are made of,
I joked that you must have eaten
lots of candy and red pepper.

You are what you eat, and when you
laughed at my lunch of milk, alfafa
sprouts and salad greens, I added
"art, music, and poetry too."

Now that you're eight years old, it's time
to learn about proteins swimming inside
your bodies— how polysaccharides are
really long chains of glucose sugars

that enzymes contain a spice of zinc,
DNA looks like a double helix of snakes,
protein bends resemble snail-like turns,
and spermatozoa, puppy-dog tails.

The hemoglobin in your red blood cells
is a protein of two twin subunits—
a red schoolbus with four heme seats
carrying oxygen to all your tissues.

Hemoglobin expands and contracts just
like your lungs when taking up oxygen.
When you ask me how to get on that bus,
I tell you: "Breathe in... Breathe out...
                    Breathe in... Breathe out..."

        — Peter Y. Chou
             Squaw Valley, 7/12/1990
             Poetry Workshop with Galway Kinnell

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© Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (6-24-2003)