POEM XLIX: “ORIGIN STORY”

My job, as I understand it,
is to get the coffee away from Dr. Finkl
before he starts to vibrate
like a poorly balanced centrifuge.

Mrs. Finkl told me so;
they’ve been married forty years,
and he’s onto her tricks by now.
He will not set the Thermos down
whenever she’s in the lab,
but he always wants to show me something.

Amoebas in a petri dish.
Jellyfish on glass.
Once, a bit of irradiated squid.

The Finkls never had
a child of their own
so when my family came to grief
they took me in their home.
Hid me, fed me,
changed my name,
so when the secret police came
to see if Dr. Finkl was up to his old tricks again,
I was simple Herschel,
their nephew,
who had never been the same
(since the farming accident.)

I am not simple.
I never was.
I can calculate and sum,
use the centrifuge and microscope,
and understand the data he gives me.

Still, there are things he doesn’t tell me.
(If I were to be questioned,
it’s better for me not to know.)
But I sometimes learn them anyway.

Tonight, he’ll be working with electricity,
and a certain type of venom
derived from the sting of the sea anemone.

I will creep down the stairs,
and crouch, and crane,
and see.

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