[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.