First Draft: Falling Apples

Driving to school this morning, I listened as a neuroscientist
told the world that he has the brain of a psychopath.
There are biological components
to how we behave, he explained, and he discovered that killer’s brains
make different patterns of light and color in the PET scanner
than those of people who keep their hands to themselves.

His mother, whatever her motives but with a knowing certainty,
spurred him to shake
his father’s family tree
to see what fell out.
Cousin Lizzie Borden, she of the famous Fall River Axe,
lurks among the branches,
along with no fewer than seven
other decidedly rotten apples.
Looking at the colorful map of his own brain,
our intrepid scientist learns that, but for the grace
of parents who loved him well as a child,
he could have been rotten, too.

In defense of our dreams, we are the kings and queens of promise.
Nature and nurture vie for supremacy
in a never ending push and pull of aspiration and desire,
and what wins out depends on an astonishingly delicate balance,
razor thin and just as sharp.

At what moment did our neuroscientist murder
the psychopath he has all the markers for being?

At what point did I brick off
the path that led,
with clear certainty,
to bitter desperation?

It is said that, until the moment of choice,
all possibilities exist in the same span
of time and space;
that it is not until the coin actually lands
heads up
that the tails becomes an impossibility.


1 Comment

Filed under Mrs. Chili as Student, Poetry, writing

One response to “First Draft: Falling Apples

  1. Wow. I looked up James Fallon ( – raises more questions about nurture vs nature and predestination, doesn’t it?

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