Joe Cottonwood
Zoology: A Case Study

See the soft soul
of one chiseled girl
in a vast city, Baltimore,
surreptitiously tipping books
to learn of ovary, sperm, egg,
singing in the Episcopal choir.

Her beauty is her enemy.
She escapes the choirmaster
to a poor school staying late to peer
through the one and only microscope
pursued by boys, men
watching cells replicate, grow
feeling twin passion
a brain for science, a womb for womanhood.

A chance for university, scholarship
encouraged by a father of no education.
In the Great Depression she boards the train
for St. Louis, for biology
as a discovery, not a trap.

Sixteen years at a microscope
over Drosophila chromosomes,
a woman in a man’s lab.
All the good men go to war.
A professor steals credit.
Sixteen years. Half starved, doctorate
achieved, war ended, Japan radioactive.
Love unleashed, last egg saved.
I’m born.