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2014 Best in Poetry - Connie Zuo


This poem was created as an analogy between metastasis and the effects of my parents’ disastrous marriage on our family. Metastasis is defined as the spread of cancer from one part to another non-adjacent part. The process begins with a single cell which mutates and reproduces very rapidly. This explosive growth becomes a tumor, and the cells of the tumor then undergo several processes (metaplasia, dysplasia, then anaplasia) until a malignant phenotype results. This phenotype allows the cancer to enter the bloodstream, and thus the cancer spreads to another site. This scientific process served as the inspiration for my poem, which reflects my views on my parents’ marital troubles as a cancer that spreads to affect not only themselves but their children as well. The analogy of marital troubles to cancer can be seen throughout the poem by taking note of both the bold and non-bold text. In the opening stanza, I foreshadow the events of the poem by talking about predicting my parents’ troubles in the non-bold text. The bolded text uses simple language, so that all readers may understand, to describe how cancer grows undetected. In the second stanza, the bolded text describes cell division while the non-bold text expresses the internal division I feel when my parents fight. Both the bold and non-bold diction create a sense of desperation and urgency. Throughout the rest of the poem, the bold text continues to describe the development of a cancer cell while paralleling my feelings of anguish and frustration in non-bold text. The phrase “jail cell” is repeated to not only emphasize the subject of the bold text as a single cell which is the root of cancer but also to emphasize the feeling of seeing your own home as a jail. If the viewer reads only the bolded text, he or she will notice four sentences that outline the process of metastasis, the final being: “This is metastasis.”