Poetry / Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope

Berkeley Poets' Workshop and Press

Publication date:

paper, 56 pages, out of print, price varies

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“Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope is an exceptional collection, frequently drawing upon the concerns of the neurochemist and biologist whose laboratory procedures make stunning connections for the poet between microscopic and human life.

“Whether her subject is neural folds, hatching turtles, tumors, or self-planting seeds, Lucille Day’s tight poetic descriptions take us effortlessly toward our inevitable relationship with other forms of matter. The poet’s range widens to include a sequence of dramatic moments in which the painful ironies of family life are coupled to tender appraisals of marriage, child rearing, and domestic obligations.

“This inventive and accessible poet turns old kitchens and scientific laboratories into new places worth exploring along with her.”

—Robert Pinsky, David Littlejohn, and Michael Rubin
Judges, Joseph Henry Jackson Award

Neural Folds

For John Teton

The frog embryos spin,
a million tiny skaters
in bright sacs. Soon
neurons will web each body,
spreading fine mesh
through muscle and skin.

First, the neural folds
must fuse. Crest cells
edging a moon-bald field
reach with bulbous arms;
flowing inward, they move
toward each other.

And when they finally meet,
melding together, cell by cell,
there is no explanation:
they know who they are.
I can almost hear them
yammering in strange tongues.

Lucille Lang Day

From Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope,
first published in The New York Times Magazine