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Anna J. Jasinska

Why Do We Not Heal Like the Axolotl?







The eyes of an axolotl are always open 
and black. Even when he sleeps, he does not close 
his eyes, because he is an axolotl 
and axolotls do not have eyelids. 
He smiles blissfully as if he were joyful 
or naïve, or simply, like every axolotl, 
he knows he will never grow old. 
He will grow smooth and young, 
heal wounds without leaving a mark on his skin, 
regrow lost fins and limbs with no scar, 
unfurl a ruffled collar of purple— 
gills around the place that axes at times cut 
but not in the case of the axolotl, 
who dwells at the bottom of a lake. 
But when the impossible times come, 
he has to grow up and break out of his bubble. 
He crawls out on the sand where the wind and sun 
can bite, where the landscape is abrasive 
unlike anywhere in the water. 
Here he watches rough cuts, 
detached limbs that never appear healthy again, and 
sutures that hold our days edge to edge, 
but gaps open and threads poke out 
from the inflamed tissue. 
I want to know the reason why 
we do not heal like the axolotl. 
I watch him—the black beads of his eyes 
remain void and motionless, his skin toughens 
at the sight of our scars, and I can see his eyelids grow.

Axolotls [. . .] reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. Instead of taking to the land, adults remain aquatic and gilled. [. . .] The axolotl does not heal by scarring and is capable of the regeneration of entire lost appendages. [. . .] An axolotl undergoes an artificially-induced metamorphosis and begins living on land. An axolotl undergoing metamorphosis experiences a number of physiological changes that help it adapt to life on land. These include […] the development of eyelids, and a reduction in the skin’s permeability to water.


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