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[after Leonardo da Vinci’s Embryo in the Womb, 1510 ]

by Shannon Castleton

Leonardo has etched a uterus
like a plum, in grey.
Thick-webbed veins stick

to its sides, drawn after those
of the artist’s black-haired wrists.
Cross-sectioned, it holds

a bulb-headed embryo––round, hairless, it will
probably be a woman. She is curled
over her knees, eyes down, feet crossed

like wings at her ankles.
She looks for her breasts and
navel. She has neither.

Her penciled shell is as thick as my thumb. Stretched
out, she could be the smooth-armed child
of Michelangelo’s David. He could roll

her small as a stone, then sling her
toward the giant whose legs stand
hard as tree trunks. Spinning,

she’d see white rocks flash against
the earth, and silver-plated men burn below,
like stars. She’d think
it was birth the whole way over.