Poem 10 ± June 14, 2015

Joseph Osmundson
from Capsid, A Love Song

I. Fusion

Membranes meet, my outside and yours. My cell is an ocean, a wide fluid mosaic; your particle, a weather balloon, round, packed with thorns and spikes. You bounce off me, the two of us still distinct, the two of us still separate. Our membranes aren’t enough, mine and yours; we need to find each other. A receptor. A mate.

Membranes repel, but you know that. It takes work to make two things into one, to dump your contents into my ocean. Your proteins meet mine, charges matching, fitting like a glove. Then everything starts to change. You change. Fusion requires work.

But you do the work, don’t you? Swing yourself open, stick your thorns and spikes into me for good. One spike, gp120, unfurls another, gp41. You pull us close, membranes touching, your outside and my outside closer now and closer now, and finally you are more than bound. We are two halves, almost one. You wait, you wait. Our membranes shimmer into onto another. My ocean, your balloon, and I am open to you, I am open and wider and wider, the work is done, all downhill from here.

And you release it, your ordered capsid, your self-assembled self. You release it into me.

Joseph_OsmundsonJoseph Osmundson is a scientist and writer from rural Washington State. His writing has been published on Gawker, Salon, The Rumpus, and The Feminist Wire, where he is an Associate Editor, among other publications. He has taught Biochemistry and Biophysics at Vassar College and The New School, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Cancer Biology at New York University. Find him on Twitter @reluctantlyjoe or at josephosmundson.com.

This piece originally appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, March 23rd, 2015.