The result of reading too many medical journals


A knock on the door, so
innocuous, answered in the clinking
of sovereigns passed hand to hand,
to be drowned in a purse of cheap leather.
The purchase laid out for dissection;
So much meat on a slab.

Undressed only partially, bleeding
from the head, skin and hardening muscles
slowly agreeing with the temperature
of tabletop. And why not? The students
have yet to arrive with their sketch pads
and charcoal. There is a strong smell

which the good doctor relieves
by opening the windows. The sparrows
alight. Three of them, sharpening their beaks
on the windowsill, aligning their pinions.
The old man lays his scalpels on leather,

A gleaming row, arranged by dirty fingers
-a gentleman’s hands are kept clean by culture,
cleansed by the rhythmic flow of hereditary blood,
whose process no one yet understands-
the door resounds youthful excitement,

the students filter in. Incision, incision,
a red node held up to meet
the first light it has ever known.
A student in the back row displaces
a perched sparrow from the corner of his pad.

He adds a shadow, with a delicate stroke,
to the corner of a bloodless liver, deeply pleased.
There is the scent of butcher shops, a few small,
quiet sighs. The doctor’s descriptive intonations, muffled
by torso, his feet displacing mouse-like birds

With every readjustment of his weight.
They cheep and hop in brownish clouds,
pecking at the leakage. Two hours’ work,
or less, the job is done. All that remains
is final dispersal. The students leave

their payment in coins that rattle against
the slaver by the door, or choke the gaping mouth
of a plaster African left out to accept them.
They grasp their hands with their good teacher,
honored to come to grips with his greatness.

The good man turns his hot face to the light,
taking in the open window, feeling the breeze.
The flesh on the table awaits its dénouement.
He rolls up the skin, a good heavy rug,
his footsteps scattering sparrows,
mentally measuring a number of wallets.

As he scrapes up the fat, to be sent to the renderers;
calculating the price of rich soap. The bones will be boiled,
clean, and buried with all the others in a small patch.
of earth. The old man works hard at this reclamation,
at his feet the gentle sparrows flutter in clouds,

fighting for scraps.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope is an award winning author of the LBA, and a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Awards. Her work was listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Competition. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program. Her first poetry collection, A Radiance was published by Cultured Llama Press in June. Her second collection, Persephone in the Underworld has been accepted by Rufus Books and shall be released in 2016. Her work has appeared in: Anon, Art Times, Ampersand, Blue Tattoo, Sentinel Quarterly, The Delinquent, De/Tached (an anthology released by Parthian), The Writer’s Hub, New Welsh Review, Every Day Poems, And Other Poems, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Magma, Words & Music, The Quarterly Conversation, Tears in the Fence, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Planet. Her work is due to appear in the next issues of Poetry Review Salzburg, Acumen, Pacific Poetry , Music& Literature, Anon, and The Screech Owl.

Posted on January 29, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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