questions for henrietta

who are you?
why can’t I see you?
I want to write you a poem.

they say
that even though
your womb tormented you,
and your cells failed you,
you became, henrietta,
the eve of modern medicine,
because your veins branched
out like the tree of life,
each immortal cell showing us
our own chromosomes,
midwifing lives in vitro,
mapping possibilities
for stagnant genes,
shooting us into the stars.

henrietta, you made
an entire body
from a fractured rib.

but did you deserve
to become a martyr
for your own sickness
while being the savior
for so many others?

are you finally able to rest
now that we know your name?

The Air Rises Up, the Fire Burns Further