Cadaver (John Stone)

“The initial lesion of syphilis may result over the years in a gradual weakening and dilatation (aneurysm) of the aorta. This aneurysm may ultimately rupture and lead to death of the patient.”

Fitting the labels
in our books
to our own tense tendons
slipping in their sheaths

we memorized the body
and the word

stripped the toughened skin
from the stringing nerve
the giving muscle.

Ribs sprang like gates.

In the chest
like archaeologists
we found it:
dotted, swollen,

sign of an old sin-
the silent lust
that had buried itself
in the years

in the hollow of his chest

still rounded by her arms
belly to belly
years beyond that first seed

to the rigid final fact

of a body.

Discussion Questions
Why does the author include the medical textbook excerpt at the beginning of this piece?
How does your own anatomy reveal hints of your life history?


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