Heather Lanier


To the Comic Who Says Her Critic Is Missing a Chromosome

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

The baby is down by ten tonight
and I’ve cracked your book’s spine to laugh
myself out of my life: a calendar
of doctors for her heart, kidneys, brain,
eyes. My kin has been metonymized
for medicine.

Get this. Nine-eleven-
eleven was the day she first giggled,
eyes lit by a church’s stained glass,
toothless gums exposed like Swedish fish
as the preacher alluded to decade-
old pain.

Anger can try to fill
the hole, say grief counselors, a fact
my clenched jaw knows in too-fast jogs.
But I return sweaty, and the hole in
my daughter’s heart remains
and you write, in your Emmy-Award-
winning way, that asshole’s so dumb
he must be missing a chromosome.
How many genes does it take to change
a heart?

              Too soon? asked the comics
a year after, the skyline behind them
a scar of loss.

I shut your book and hear
a thump. My baby’s arms are helicopter-
chopping air, her eyes still closed,
her mouth a devious grin. In waking,
she can’t lift her head.

I poke my husband. We peer over
the bassinet, giggling at the little
ninja whose fighting off what, exactly?

How does she have enemies already?

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The Christian Ladies Talk Infertility

(listen to the poem, read by the author)

Tell the listeners your story, one says
to the other, and the other says
they tried everything—herbs, acupuncture,

angels, in vitro. I couldn’t even speak
to God, she says. I couldn’t hear
God through my anger. We feel her

(as they say)—until the lab coats or
the petri dish or the Creator gave her
five embryos. And she says this bit

with gospel-choir alleluia: They were healthy
embryos. I mean, she says, these were good
quality embryos, and there is not enough static

on the podcast to cover the unspoken.
So much to celebrate, she says, so much
to praise the Lord for, like when your God

makes good as consumer protection agent, like
when your Almighty delivers top-notch DNA
and the disabled eggs don’t even show

their faces so there’s no need to crucify
them before a crowd of lab coats and mothers
and strapping male twins.

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About the Author

Heather Lanier’s memoir, Raising a Rare Girl, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and was positively reviewed by Ona Gritz at Wordgathering. Lanier is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks, with a third forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, The Sun, and elsewhere. She lives in New Jersey with her family.