Cathexis Northwest Press
By: Mary Sun
Some human cells adapt to toxic stress by physically becoming other cells. Smoke enough, and tall columns become flat lung lines. Turn 16, and girl lining becomes home-in-waiting.
The word for this is metaplasia. It is supposed to be temporary.
If the acid reflux lasts long enough,
our throats turn home to miracles.
Mucosa gazes into the hissing ocean,
forgets it ever wanted anything else.
Burns off its pink,
grows taller cells,
meets the bile as
intestine. It knows
rust is a better color for pain.
Pathology TA holds up dead esophagus
and I write a letter. Sorry the shapeshifting
did not save you.
There are children who want to
die. Children waiting in empty
lots and melting sandcastles,
enduring as monster-flowers
–monsters, to hurt what hurts
–flowers, to want to live. It is so
hard to remember if we are
persons or flowers or monsters.
I squint; the air shimmers with all
we will become.
When the dark tide recedes,
you are left with a sun that is eating the galaxy
and generations of children with stomachs for throats.
Mary Sun is an unconventional medical student living at the intersection of healing, technology, and the arts. As a neurodivergent, first-generation Chinese American woman who grew up on the poverty line, her written work explores layered histories of abuse, fragmentations of identity, and experiences of mental disorder. Before beginning her journey in medicine, Mary helped build enterprise software at large tech companies, designed healthcare apps for disadvantaged populations, and founded and operated two companies in socially-conscious software development and education consulting. She has been awarded several Gold Keys in Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, received the Scholarship America Dream Award for her work in health technology, and is a past winner of the Box Diversity Scholarship in Engineering, Google BOLD Award, Origami Investment Challenge, and Coca Cola National Scholarship. She is passionate about improving access to psychiatric services in the US and currently works as a Founding member of Times Up Healthcare and counselor at the Crisis Text Line. Mary received her Master’s in Software Engineering from Harvard University, BSc in Finance and Healthcare Management & Policy from The Wharton School, and BA in Computational Biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently writes and performs spoken word poetry in NYC.